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600069696% 



II 





•■'' *'- r'Kf... 



r 



THE 



HEADI^SS HORSEMAN: 



%, Strange Cak 0f %tm^. 



CAPTAIN MA 




REID. 



LONDON: 

EICHABD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET. 

1866. 



(RxgU of Tranalation ret(rved.J 



^J o. ^. / Xy 



LOVDOH : 

panrrxD bt woodfall akd kikdsr, 

MILFOBD LAKE, STRAND, W.C. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAP. 






PAOK 


Psoiooini ....... 1 


I. Thk Busirr PKAiin .... 






t 


II. Thk Trail of thb Laxo 






8 


III. Thk Prairii Fihoir-Post . 






U 


IV. The Black Northxr 






. 1» 


V. Thk Hon of thi Hor9I-Hvbtx& . 






25 


VI. Thk SPOTTT?i^ MCalTANO 






81 


VII. NOCTCHKAL AsiVtOXAJiiXH 






89 


VIII. Thk CttAWL or tuk Alaorut 






45 


IX. Thk FiwsTiKR Port . 






49 


X. Casa pkl CtJkv^ 






54 


XI. Ajt Uircxpi£CTiu> Arrival 






59 


Xn. TiwiNo A Wtuj Marx . . 






65 


XIII. A PnAiaijs PicKifl .... 






. 78 


XIV. Thk Mahada 






. 77 


XV. Thk Runawat OTXRTAKSir . 






81 


XVI. CiiiSKB flr Wnjj SrALLToi:^ . 






86 


XVII. TW£ McSTAiiO TaAP .... 






91 


XVIII. JiiAtJtrBT vrox thb Trail . 






97 


XIX. Wm^^JiT AND Water 






. 106 


XX. At? U^bate Vosirias 






. 112 


XXI. A Dl'KL wiTEtirr Duoas 






. 117 


XXII. Ajt VxKvoyir^ Do.vor 






. 121 


XXIII. Vows OF Vjr^fllEAJfCB 






. 126 


XXIV. Ok thk Azotka 






. 129 


XXV. A Gift Ukoitkit 






188 


XXVL Mil.!, INN Tjrn: As^oXKi 






. 188 


XXVIL I LoTK You !— I Lovb You ! 






. 141 


XXVin. A Plkasurk Forriddbm 






. 145 


XXIX. BL CkfTOTB IT Hovs 






. 149 


XXX. A Saoittabt ConKBaPOin^sitcB 






. 151 


XXXI. A StRK^IT CLEVERtT ObO!£SXD 






154 


XXXIL Ij&[it a XI) Shaur 






. 158 


XXXIII. A TonruRiMo DnscovKBT 






161 


XXXIV. A Cwn^jLUors Divriti^yf 






165 


XXXV. Ak L'.tf:f>i'HT»:jrrii Ho*t 






169 


XXXVI. Thrku Travk^lem on the sahe Track 






172 


XXXVII. A Man M188IKO . 






177 


XXXVIII. The Avksoers ' . 






181 


XXXIX. The Pool of Blood . 






184 


XL The Marked Bullet 






188 


XLI. CuATRo Cavalleros . 






198 


XLIL Vultures on the Wiica 






197 


XLIII. The Cup and the Jar 






204 


XLIV. A Quartette of Comanches 






209 


XLV. A Trail gone Blind 






217 


XL VI. A Secret Confided 






228 



IV CONTENTS. 










CHAP. PAGE 


XLVII. An Iktercbptbd Epistlb . . . . .229 


XLVIII. ISIDORA 








. 233 


XLIX. Thb Laeo Unloosid 








. 241 


L. A COMFLICT WITH C0TOTE8 . 








. 246 


LI. TwiCfi IWTOXIOitKP . 








250 


LII. Am AwAftivift 








254 


LIII. JuflT TK Tnn 








259 


LIV. A Prairib Palahquih 








265 


LV. Um Dia db Notebadbs 








269 


LVI. A Shot at thb Deyil 








277 


LYIL SOVNPIKO THB SlGMAL 








. 284 


LYIII. Rbooilino from ▲ Kiss 








. 289 


LIX. Another ^bo cannot Best 








. 294 


LX. A Fair Informer 








. 298 


LXI. Anoels on Earth . 








803 


LXII. WAinKfl run thb Cue 








808 


LXIII. A JOKr OT EE<:OLATOKd 








313 


LXIV. A SEares or Interludks . 








318 


LXV. Stu-l AfotbBR IirreaLUl>s . 








823 


LXVI. Chassd bt CoMAXcnEfl 








828 


LXVII. Jjyn iKPiofl 








833 


LXYIII. Tll£: DL4Ar?OtKTED CAMPAiaNERS 








837 


LXIX. Mtstert Ai!h Mou^siso 








843 


LXX. Go, ZiB, AND God speed You 








847 


LXXI. The Sohrel HoEfB . 








850 


LXXII. Zrb Stusp ON TSK Trail . 








856 


LXXI II. The P^airte 1st, and . . 








861 


LXXIV. A SoMTAni Btaleer 








864 


LXXV. On the Trail 








. 866 


LXXVI. Lost in the Chalk . 








869 


LXXVII. As^miLE. Lisjw 








374 


LXXVIII. A Flk^ IIS*- Swop 








877 


LXXIX. An URTiRtrfcj Teaceer 








882 


LXXX. A DooRWAT WKI.T, Watched . 








885 


LXXXL HsAiJii! Down— Hkelb Up ! . 








. 889 


LXXXII. A Queer Parcel . 








. 893 


LXXXIII. Limbs of the Law . 








896 


LXXXIV. An ArrECTTi»>iT^ Nephew . 








899 


LXXXV. A Kind Cousin 








404 


LXXXVI. A Texan Court 








. 409 


LXXXVII. A False Witness . 








. 414 


LXXXVIII. An Unwilling Witness 








. 418 


LXXXIX. The Confession of the Accused . 








423 


XC. A Court quickly Cleabbd • 








. 427 


XCI. A Chase through a Thioksk 








. 480 


XCII. A Eelpctant Retttrn 








. 433 


XCIII. A BoDT Brheakei^ . 








. 436 


XCIV. The MTETtznr ma£)S Clear . 






• 


. 440 


XCV. Thb Last Witness . 








. 446 


XCVL Stole away . 








452 










457 


XCVIII. Not Dead yet 








. 460 


XCIX. Attempted Mubdi* and Suioidb 








463 


C. Jot . 








. 466 



i:. 



I,-,.;,^ 


:,:,H1;, 


ll^i'-i' 


,::!:p 


%M- 


■ '■ .:\i 







'■1^1 



k 







THE 

HEADLESS HOESEMAN. 



PROLOGUE. 

The stag of Texas, reclining in midnight lair, is startled from 
Us sluinbers by the hoofstroke of a horse. 

He does not forsake his covert, nor yet rise to his feet. His 
4i^^ ff # iTi is shared by the wild steeds of the savannah, given to 
voctamal straying. He only nprears his head ; and, with antlers 
o'eitopping the tall grass, listens for a repetition of the sound. 

Again is the hoofstroke heard, but witli altered intonation. 
Tlvbre is a ring of metal — the clinking of steel against stone. 

The sound, significant to the ear of tlie stag, causes a quick 
ahmice in his air and attitude. Springing clear of his couch, 
and hounding a score of yards across the prairie, he pauses to 
look hack upon the disturber of his dreams. 

In the clear moonlight of a southern sky, ho recognizes the 
noBt ruthless of his enemies — ^man. One is approaching upon 
honeback. 

Yielding to instinctive dread, lie is about to resume his flight : 
when something in the appearance of the horseman — some 
unnatural seeming — ^holds lum transfixed to the spot. 

With haunches in quivering contact with the sward, and 
frontlet faced to the rear, he continues to gaze — ^liis largo brown 
eyes straining upon the intruder in a mingled expression of 
fear and bewilderment. 

What has challenged the stag to such protracted scrutiny? 

The horse is perfect in all its parts — a splendid steed, saddled, 
bridled, and otherwise completely caparisoned. In it there ap- 
pears nothing amiss — nothing to j)roduce either wonder or alarm. 
15nt the man — the rider? Ah! About him there is some- 
thing to cause both — sometliing weird — sometliing wanting ! 

By heavens! it is tiik head! 

Even the unreasoning animal can perceive this ; and, after 
gazing a moment with wildercd eyes — wondering wlnit abnor- 
mal monster thus mocks its cervine intelligence — terror-stricken 
it continues its retreat ; nor again pauses, till it lias plunged 
through the waters of the Leona, and placed the current of the 
stream between itself and the ghastly intruder. # # # 



^2 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

Heedless of the affrighted deer — either of its presence, or 
precipitate flight — the Headless Horseman rides on. 

He, too, is going in the direction of the river. Unlike the 
stag, he does not seem pressed for time; but advances in a 
slow, tranquil pace : so silent as to seem ceremonious. 

Apparently absorbed in solemn thought, he gives free rein to 
his steed : permitting the animal, at intervals, to snatch a mouth- 
fdl of the herbage gro-vving by the way. Nor does he, by voice 
or gesture, urge it impatiently onward, when the howl-bark of 
the prairie-wolf causes it to fling its head on high, and stand 
snorting in its tracks. 

He appears to be under the influence of some all-absorbing 
emotion, from which no common incident can awake him. 
There is no speech — not a whisper — to betray its nature. 
The startled stag, his own horse, the wolf, and the midnight 
moon, are the sole witnesses of his silent abstraction. 

His shoulders shrouded under a serapi, one edge of which, 
flirted up by the wind, displays a portion of his figure: his 
limbs encased in "water-guards" of jaguar-skin: thus suffi- 
ciently sheltered against the dews of the night, or the showers of 
a tropical sky, he rides on — silent as the stars shining above, 
imconcemed as the cicada that chirrups in the grass beneath, 
or the prairie breeze playing with the drapery of his dress. 

Something at length appears to rouse from his reverie, and 
stimulate hirn to greater speed — ^his steed, at the same time. 
The latter, tossing up its head, gives utterance to a joyous 
neigh; and, with outstretched neck, and spread nostrils, ad- 
vances in a gait gradually increasing to a canter. The proximity 
of the river explains the altered pace. 

The horse halts not again, till the crystal current is surging 
against his flanks, and the legs of his rider are submerged 
knee-deep under the surface. 

The animal eagerly assuages its thirst; crosses to the opposite 
side ; and, with vigorous stride, ascends the sloping bank. 

Upon the crest occurs a pause : as if the rider tarried till his 
steed should shake the water from its flanks. There is a rattling 
of saddle-flaps, and stirrup-leathers, resembling thunder, amidst 
a cloud of vapour, white as the spray of a cataract. 

Out of this self-constituted nimhtu, the Headless Hobseman 
emerges ; and moves onward, as before. 

Apparently pricked by the spur, and guided by the rein, of 
his rider, the horse no longer strays from the track ; but steps 
briskly forward, as if upon a path already trodden. 

A treeless savannah stretches before — selvedged by the sky. 
Outlined against the azure is seen the imperfect centaurean 
shape gradually dissolving in the distance, till it becomes lost to 
view, under the mystic gloaming of the moonlight ! 



CHAPTER I. 

THE BURNT PEAIRIE. 

On the great plain of Texa;;, about a hundred miles southward 
from the old Spanish town of San Antonio de Bejar, the noonday 
Bim is shedding his beams from a sky of cerulean brightness. 
Under the golden light appears a group of objects, but little in 
imison with the landscape around them: since they betoken 
the presence of human beings, in a spot where there is no sign 
of human habitation. 

The objects in question are easily identified — even at a great 
distance. They are waggons ; each covered with its ribbed and 
rounded tilt of snow-wlute " Osnaburgh." 

There are ten of them — scarce enough to constitute a " carar 
Iran" of traders, nor yet a "government train." They are 
more likely the individual property of an emigrant ; who has 
knded upon the coast, and is wending his way to one of the 
kte-formed settlements on the Leona. 

Slowly crawling across the savannah, it could scarce be told 
that they are in motion ; but for their relative position, in long 
serried line, indicating tiie order of march. 

The dark bodies between each two declare that the teams 
are attached; and that they are making progress is proved, 
by the retreating antelope, scared from its noonday siestay and 
the long-shanked curlew, rising with a screech from the sward 
— ^both bird and beast wondering at the string of strange 
iehemothty thus invading their wilderness domain. 

Elsewhere upon the prairie, no movement may be detected 
— either of bird or quadruped. It is the time of day when all 
tropical life becomes torpid, or seeks repose in the shade ; man 
alone, stimulated by the love of gain, or the promptings of 
ambition, disregarding the laws of nature, and defying the 
fervour of the sun. 

So seems it with the owner of the tilted train ; who, despite 
the relaxing influence of the fierce mid-day heat, keeps moving 
on. 

That he is an emigrant — and not one of the ordinary class 
— is evidenced in a variety of ways. The ten large waggons 
of Pittsburgh build, each hauled by eight able-bodied mules ; 
their miscellaneous contents: plenteous provisions, articles of 
costly furniture, even of luxe, live stock in the shape of 
coloured women and children ; the groups of black and yellow 
bondsmen, walking alongside, or straggling foot- sore in the 
rear ; the light travelling carriage in the lead, drawn by a 
span of sleek-coated Kentucky mules, and driven by a black 
Jehuy sweltering in a suit of livery; all bespeak, not a poor 

B 2 



4 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAX. 

Northern- States settler in search of a new home, but a rich 
Southerner who has ah*eady purchase done, and is on his 
way to take possession of it. 

And this is the exact story of the train. It is the property 
of a planter who has landed at Indianola, on the Gulf of Mata- 
gorda ; and is now travelling overland — en route for his desti- 
nation. 

In the cariege that accompanies it, riding habitually at its 
head, is the planter himself — ^Woodley Poin dexter — a tall 
thin man of fifty, with a slightly sallowish complexion, and 
aspect proudly severe. He is simply though not inexpensively 
clad : in a loosely fitting frock of alpaca cloth, a waistcoat of 
black satin, and trousers of nankin. A shirt of finest linen 
shows its plaits through the opening of his vest — its collar 
embraced by a piece of black ribbon ; while the shoe, resting in 
his stirrup, is of finest tanned leather. His features are shaded 
by a broad-brimmed Leghorn hat. 

Two horsemen are riding alongside — one on his right, the 
other on the left — a stripling scarce twenty, and a young man 
six or seven years older. The former is his son — a youth, whose 
open cheerful countenance contrasts, not only with the severe 
aspect of his father, but with the somewliat sinister features on 
the other side, and which belong to his cousin. 

The youth is dressed in a French blouse of sky-coloured 
"cottonade," with trousers of the same material ; a most appro- 
priate costume for a southern climate, and which, with the 
Panama hat upon his head, is equally becoming. 

The cousin, an ex- officer of volunteers, affects a military un- 
dress of dark blue cloth, with a forage cap to correspond. 

There is another horseman riding near, who, only on account 
of having a white skin — not white for all that — is entitled to 
description. His coarser features, and cheaper habiliments ; the 
keel-coloured " cowhide " clutched in his right hand, and flirted 
with such evident skill, proclaim him the overseer — and 
whipper up — of the swarthy pedestrians composing the entou- 
rage of the train. 

The travelling carriage, which is a "carriole" — a sort of 
cross between a Jersey waggon and a barouche — has two oc- 
cupants. One is a young lady of the whitest skin ; the other 
a girl of the blackest. The former is the daughter of Woodley 
Poindexter — ^his only daughter. She of the sable complexion 
is the young lady's handmaid. 

The emigrating party is from the " coast " of the Mississippi 
— from Louisiana. The planter is not himself a native of tms 
State — in other words a Creole; but the type is exhibited in 
the countenance of his son — still more in that fair face, seen 
occasionally through the curtains of the carriole, and whose 
delicate features declare descent from one of those endorsed 
damselfl-^/fe^ a la casette — who, more than a hundred years 



THE BURNT PRAIRIE. 5 

ago, came across the Atlantic provided with proofs of their virtue 
—in the coJtket ! 

A grand sngar planter of the Sonth is Woodley Poindexter ; 
one of the highest and haughtiest of his class ; one of the 
most profuse in aristocratic hospitalities: hence the necessity 
of forsaking his Mississippian home, and transferring himself 
and his " penates,'* — with only a renmant of his " niggers," — 

to the wilds of south-western Texas. 

• • * * * 

The sun is upon the meridian line, and almost in the zenith. 
The travellers tread upon their own shadows. Enervated by the 
excessive heat, the white horsemen sit silently in their saddles. 
Even the dusky pedestrians, less sensible to its influence, have 
ceased their garrulous " gumbo ; " and, in stragghng groups, 
shamble listlessly along in the rear of the waggons. 

The silence — solemn as that of a funereal procession — is inter- 
rapted only at inter\^al8 by the pistol-like ci'ack of a whip, or the 
loud "wo-ha," delivered in deep baritone from the thick lips 
of some sable teamster. 

Slowly the train moves on, as if groping its way. There is no 
regular road. The route is indicated by the wheel-marks of some 
vehicles that have passed before — barely conspicuous, by having 
crushed the culms of the shot grass. 

Notwithstanding the slow progi'ess, the teams are doing 
their best. The planter believes himself within less than twenty 
mOes of the end of his journey. He hopes to reach it before 
night : hence the march continued through the mid-day heat. 

Unexpectedly the drivers are directed to pull up, by a sign 
from the overseer ; who has been riding a hundred yards in the 
advance, and who is seen to make a sudden stop — as if some 
obstruction had presented itself. 

He comes trotting back towards the train. His gestures 
tell of something amiss. What is it ? 

There has been much talk about Indians — of a probability 
of their being encountered in this quarter. 

Can it be the red-skinned marauders ? Scarcely : the ges- 
tures of the overseer do not betray actual alarm. 

" What is it, Mr. Sansom ? " asked the planter, as the man 
rode up. 

" The gi'ass air burnt. The prairy's been afire." 

^^ Been on lire! Is it on lire wo/t^ / " hurriedly inquired the 
owner of the waggons, with an apj)rehensive glance towards 
the travelling carriage. " Where ? I see no smoke ! " 

"No, sii' — no," stammered the overseen*, becoming conscious 
that he had caused unnecessary alarm ; " I didn't say it air afire 
now : oidy thet it hez been, an the liul ground air as black as 
the ten o' spades." 

" Ta — tat ! what of that ? I suppose wc can travel over a 
black prairie, as safely as a green one ? " 



6 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

"Wliat nonsense of you, Josh Sansom, to raise such a row 
abont nothing — fiightening people out of their senses! Ho! 
there, you niggers ! Lay the leather to your teams, and let the 
train proceed. Whip up ! — ^whip up ! " 

" But, Captain Calhoun," protested the overseer, in response 
to the gentleman who had reproached him in such chaste terms ; 
" how air we to find the way r " 

" Find the way ! What are you raving about ? We haven't 
lost it — ^have we ? " 

"I'm afeerd we hev, though. The wheel-tracks ain't no 
longer to be seen. They're burnt out, along wi' the grass." 

"What matters that? I reckon we can cross a piece of 
scorched prairie, without wheel-marks to guide us ? ^We'll find 
them again on the other side." 

"Ye-es," naively responded the overseer, who, although a 
" down-easter," had been far enough west to have learnt 
something of frontier life ; "if theei* air any other side. I 
kedn't see it out o' the seddle — ne'er a sign o' it." 

" Whip up, niggers ! whip up ! " shouted Calhoun, without 
heeding the remark ; and spurring onwards, as a sign that the 
order was to be obeyed. 

The teams are again set in motion ; and, after advancing to 
the edge of the burnt tract, without instructions from any one, 
are once more brought to a stand. 

The white men on horseback draw together for a consultation. 
There is need : as all are satisfied by a single glance directed to 
the ground before them. 

Far as the eye can reach the country is of one uniform colour 
— ^black as Erebus. There is nothing green — not a blade of 
grass — not a reed nor weed ! 

It is after the summer solstice. The ripened culms of the 
^raminece, and the stalks of the praii*ie flowers, have alike 
crumbled into dust under the devastating breath of fire. 

In front — on the right and left — to the utmost verge of vision 
extends the scene of desolation. Over it the cerulean sky 
is changed to a darker blue ; the sun, though clear of clouds, 
seems to scowl rather than shine — as if reciprocating the frown 
of the earth. 

The overseer has made a correct report — there is no trail 
visible. The action of the fire, as it raged among the ripe 
grass, has eliminated the impression of the wheels hitherto 
indicating the route. 

"What are we to do?" 

The planter himself put this inquir}', in a tone that told of 
a vacillating spirit. 

" Do, uncle Woodlcy I ^Vhat else but keep straight on ? 
The river must Ix) on the other side ? If we don't hit the cross- 
ing, to a half mile or so, we can go up, or down the bank — as the 
case may require." 



THE BUKKT PRAIBIE. 7 

^ But, Gassiiifl : if we should lose our way ? " 
" We can't. There's but a patch of this, I suppose ? If we 
do go a little astray, we must come out somewhere — on one 
side, or the other." 
" WeD, nephew, you know best : I shall be guided by you." 
"No fear, uncle. IVe made my way out of a worse fix 
than this. Drive on, niggers ! Keep straight after me.^^ 

The ex-officer of Yolunteers, casting a conceited glance towards 
the travelling carriage — ^through the curtains of which appears 
a fair face, slightly Eu^adowed with anxiety — gives the spur to 
Ins horse ; and witib confident air trots onward. 

A chorus of whipcracks is succeeded by the trampling of 
fourscore mules, mingled with the clanking of wheels against 
their hubs. The waggon-train is once more in motion. 

The mules step out with greater rapidity. The sable sur- 
fiuje, strange to their eyes, excites them to brisker action — caus- 
ing them to raise the hoo^ as soon as it touches the turf. The 
younger animals show fear — snorting, as they advance. 

In time their apprehensions become allayed ; and, taking the 
cue from their older associates, they move on steadily as before. 
A mile or more is made, apparently in a direct line from the 
point of starting. Then there is a halt. The self-appointed 
guide has ordered it. He has reined up his horse ; and is 
sitting in the saddle with less show of confidence. He appears 
to be puzzled about the direction. 

The landscape — if such it may be called — has assumed a 
change ; though not for the better. It is still sable as ever, to 
the verge of the horizon. But the surfexjc is no longer a plain : 
it rolU. There are lidges — gentle undulations — with valleys 
between. They are not entirely treeless — though nothing that 
may be termed a tree is in sight. There have been such, 
before the fire — algarohiaSy mezquites, and others of the acacia 
funily — standing solitary, or in copses. Their light pinnate 
foliage has disappeared like flax before the flame. Their exist- 
ence is only evidenced by charred trunks, and blackened boughs. 
" You've lost the way, nephew ? " said the planter, riding 
rapidly up. 

" No uncle — not yet. I've only stopped to have a look. It 
must lie in this direction — down that valley. Let them drive 
on. We're going all right — I'll answer for it." 

Once more in motion — adowu the slope — then along the valley 
— then up the acclivity of another ridge — and then there is a 
second stoppage upon its crest. 

" You've lost the way, Cash ? " said the planter, coming up 
and repeating his former observation. 

" D d if I don't believe I have, uncle ! " responded the 

nephew, in a tone of not very respectful mistrust. " Anyhow ; 
who the dc^al could find his way out of an ashpit like this? 
No, no!" he continued, reluctant to betray his embarrassment, 



8 THE ULADLESS HOKSEMAN. 

as the carriole came up. "I see now. We're all right yet. 
The river must be in this direction. Come on ! " 

On goes the guide, evidently irresolute. On follow the sable 
teamsters, who, despite their stolidity, do not fail to note some 
signs of vacillation. They can tell that they are no longer 
advancing in a direct line ; but circuitously among the copses, 
and across the glades that stretch between. 

All are gratified by a shout from the conductor, an- 
nouncing recovered confidence. In response there is a uni- 
versal explosion of whipcord, with joyous exclamations. 

Once more they are stretching their teams along a travelled 
road — where a haJfscore of wheeled vehicles must have passed 
before them. And not long before: the wheel- tracks are of 
recent impress — the hoofprints of the animals fresh as if made 
within the hour. A train of waggons, not unlike their own, 
must have passed over the burnt prairie ! 

Like themselves, it could only be going towards the Leona : 
perhaps some government convoy on its way to Fort Inge? 
In that case they have only to keep in the same track. The 
Fort is on the line of their march — but a short distance beyond 
the point where their journey is to terminate. 

Nothing could be more opportune. The guide, hitherto per- 
plexed — though without acknowledging it — is at once relieved 
of all anxiety; and with a fresh exhibition of conceit, orders 
the route to be resumed. 

For a mile or more the waggon-tracks are followed — not 
in a direct line, but bending about among the skeleton copses. 
The countenance of Cassius Calhoun, for a while wearing a 
confident look, gradually becomes clouded. It assumes the 
profoundest expression of despondency, on discovering that 
the four-and-forty wheel-tracks he is following, have been made 
by ten Pittsburgn waggons, and a carriole — the same that are 
now following him, and in whose company he has been travelling 
all the tcay from the Oulf of Matagorda ! 



CHAPTER ir. 

THE TRAIL OF THE LAZO. 

Beyond doubt, the waggons of Woodley Poindexter were going 
over ground already traced by the tiring of their wheels. 

" Our own tracks ! " muttered Calhoun on making the dis- 
covery, adding a fierce oath as he reined up. 

" Our own tracks ! What mean you, Cassius ? You don't 
say we've been travelling — " 

" On our own tracks. I do, uncle ; that very thing. We must 
have made a complete circumbendibus of it. See ! here's the 



THE TRAIL OF THE LAZO. 9 

hind hoof of my own horse, with half a shoe off; and there's the 
feet of the niters. Besides, I can tell the ground. That's 
&e yeiy hill we went down as we left our last stopping place. 
Hang vie crooked luck ! We've made a couple of miles for 
nothmg." 

Emharrassment is no longer the only expression upon the 
&ce of the speaker. It has deepened to chagrin, with an ad- 
mixture of shame. It is through him that the train is without 
a regular guide. One, engaged at Indianola, had piloted them 
to their last camping place. There, in consequence of some dis- 
pute, due to the surly temper of the ex-captain of volunteers, 
the man had demanded his dismissal, and gone back. 

For this — as also for an ill-timed display of confidence in his 
power to conduct the march — ^is the planter's nephew now suffer- 
ing under a sense of shame. He feels it keenly as the carriole 
comes up, and bright eyes become witnesses of his discomfiture. 
Poindexter does not repeat his inquiry. That the road is 
lost is a fact evident to all. Even the barefooted or " bro- 
ganned " pedestrians have recognized their long-heeled footprints, 
and become aware that they are for the second time treading 
upon the same ground. 

There is a general halt, succeeded by an animated conversa- 
tion among the white men. The situation is serious : the 
planter himself believes it to be so. He cannot that day reach 
the end of his journey — a thing upon which he had set his mind. 
That is the very least misfortune that can befall them. 
There are others possible, and probable. There are perils 
upon the burnt plain. They may be compelled to spend the 
night upon it, with no water for their animals. Perhaps 
a second day and night — or longer — who can tell how long ? 

How are they to find their way ? The sun is beginning to 
descend ; though still too high in heaven to indicate his line of 
declination. By waiting a while they may discover the quarters 
of the compass. 

But to what purpose ? The knowledge of east, west, north, 
and south can avaU nothing now : they have lost their line of 
march. 

Calhoun has become cautious. He no longer volunteers to 
point out the path. He hesitates to repeat his pioneering ex- 
periments — after such manifest and shameful failure. 

A ten minutes' discussion terminates in nothing. No one 
can suggest a feasible plan of proceeding. No one knows how 
to escape from the embnicc of that dark desert, which appears 
to cloud not only the sun and sky, but the countenances of all 
who enter within its limits. 

A flock of black vultui'cs is seen flying afar off. They come 
nearer, and nearer. Some alight upon the ground — others 
hover above the heads of the strayed travellers. Is there a 
boding in the behaviour of the birds ? 

V. 3 



10 THE HE1DLSS8 H0B8E1IAV. 

Another ten minutes is spent in the midst of moral and phy- 
sical gloom. Then, as if bj a benignant mandate from heaTa% 
does cheerfxdness re-assnme its swaj. The canse? A. hone- 
man riding in the direction of the train ! 

An nnexpected sight : who conld have looked for hnznaa 
being in such a place ? All eyes simnltaneonsly sparkle with 
joy ; as if, in the approach of the horseman, vnej beheld the 
advent of a saviour ! 

"He's coming this way, is he not?" inquired the planter, 
scarce confident in his failing sight. 

" Yes, father ; straight as he can ride," replied Hemy, lifting 
the hat from his head, and waving it on high : the action accom- 
panied by a shout intended to attract the horseman. 

The signal was superfluous. The stranger had already sighted 
the halted waggons; and, riding towards them at a gallop, 
was soon within speaking distance. 

He did not draw bridle, until he had passed the train ; and 
arrived upon the spot occupied by the planter and his party. 

" A Mexican ! " whispered Henry, drawing his deduction from 
the habiliments of the horseman. 

** So much the better," replied Poindexter, in the same tone of 
voice ; " he'll be all the more likely to know the road." 

" Not a bit of Mexican about him," muttered Calhoun, " ex- 
cepting the rig. I'll soon see. Buenos dias, cavallero ! Eita 
V, Mexicano f (Good day, sir ! are you a Mexican ?)" 

" No, indeed," replied the stranger, with a protesting smile. 
"Anything but that. I can speak to you in Spanish, if you 
prefer it ; but I dare say you will understand mo better in Eng- 
lish : which, I presume, is your native tongue ? " 

Calhoun, suspecting that he had sppken indifferent Spanish, 
or indifferently pronounced it, refrains from making rejoinder. 

" American^ sir," replied Poindexter, his national pride feeling 
slightly piqued. Then, as if fearing to offend the man from 
whom he intended asking a favour, he added : " Yes, sir ; we are 
all Americans — from the Southern States." 

"That I can perceive by your following." An expression of 
contempt — scarce perceptible — showed itself upon tiie counte- 
nance of the speaker, as his eye rested upon the groups of 
black bondsmen. " I can perceive, too," he added, " that you 
are strangers to prairie travelling. You have lost your way ? " 

" We have, sir ; and have very little prospect of recovering it, 
unless we may count upon your kindness to direct us." 

" Not much kindness in that. By the merest chance I came 
upon your trail, as I was crossing the prairie. I saw you 
were going astray ; and have ridden this way to set you right." 

" It is very good of you. We shall be most thanldul, sir. My 
name is Poindexter — Woodley Poindexter, of Louisiana. I have 
purchased a property on the Leona river, near Fort Inge. We 
were in hjDpes of reaching it before nightfall. Can we do so ? " 



THE TBAIL OF THB LAZO. 11 

" There is nothing to hinder yon : if yon follow the inBtmc- 
tMos I shall give." 

On saying this, the stranger rode a few paces apart ; and ap- 
peared to scmtinize the country — as if to determine the direc- 
tion which Hie travellers should take. 

Poised conspicnonsly upon the crest of the ridge, Iiorse and 
man presented a picture worthy of skilful delineation. 

A steed, sach as might have been ridden by an Arab sheik — 
Uood-bay in colonr — ^broad in counter — ^with limbs clean as culms 
of cane, and hips of elliptical outline, continued into a magni- 
ficent taQ sweeping rearward like a rainbow : on his back a rider 
— a young man of not more than five-and- twenty — of noble form 
and featiues ; habited in the picturesque costume of a Mexican 
ranehero — spencer jacket of velveteen — calzoneroB laced along 
the seams — ealzoncillos of snow-white lawn — hotM of buff 
leather, heavily spurred at the heels — around the waist a scarf of 
scarlet crape ; and on his head a hat of black glaze, banded with 
gold bullion. Picture to yourself a horseman thus habited; 
seated in a deep tree-sadcUe, of Moorish shape and Mexican 
manufacture, with housings of leather stamped in antique 
patterns, such as were worn by the caparisoned steeds of the 
Conquistadores ; picture to yourself such a cavallero, and yon 
win have before your mind's eye a counterpart of him, upon 
whom the planter and his people were gazing. 

Through the curtains of the travelling carriage he was re- 
garded with glances that spoke of a singular sentiment. For 
the first time in her life, Louise Poindexter looked upon that — 
hitherto known only to her imagination — a man of heroic mould. 
Proud might he have been, could he have guessed the interest 
which his presence was exciting in the breast of the young Creole. 

He could not, and did not. He was not even aware of her exist- 
ence. He had only glanced at the dust-bedaubed vehicle in 
passing — as one might look upon the rude incrustation of an 
oyster, without suspecting that a precious pearl may lie gleaming 
inside. 

*' By my faith ! " he declared, facing round to the owner 
of the waggons, " I can discover no landmarks for you to steer 
by. For all that, I can find the way myself. You will have to 
cross the Leona five miles below the Fort ; and, as I have to go 
by the crossing myself, you can follow the tracks of my horse. 
Good day, gentlemen ! " 

Thus abruptly bidding adieu, he pressed the spur against the 
side of his steed ; and started off at a gallop. 

An unexpected — almost uncourteous departure ! So thought 
the planter and his people. 

They had no time to make observations upon it, before the 
stranger was seen returning towards them ! 

In ten seconds he was again in tlicir presence — all listening 
to learn what had brought him buck. 



12 THE HEADLESS HGB^EtfAN. 

" I fear tne tracks of my horse may prove of little service 
to you. The mustangs have been this way, since the fire. 
They have made hooftnarks by the thousand. Mine are shod ; 
but, as you are not accustomed to trailing, you may not be able 
to distinguish them — the more so, that in these dry ashes all 
horsetracks are so nearly alike. 

" What are we to do ? " despairingly asked the planter. 

" I am sorry, ]Mr. Poindexter, I cannot stay to conduct you. 
I am riding express, with a despatch for the Fort. If you 
should lose my trail, keep the sun on your right .Moulders : 
so that your shadows may fall to the left, at an angle of about 
fifteen degrees to your line of march. Go straight forward for 
about five miles. You will then come in sight of the top of a 
tall tree — a cypress. You will know it by its leaves being in 
the red. Head direct for this tree. It stands on the bai^ of 
the river; and close by is the crossing." 

The young horseman, once more drawing up his reins, was 
about to ride ofi* ; when something caused him to linger. It was 
a pair of dark lustrous eyes — observed by him for the first 
time — glancing through the curtains of the travelling carriage. 

Their owner was in shadow ; but there was light enough to 
show, that they were set in a countenance of surpassing loveliness. 
He perceived, moreover, that they were turned upon himself— 
fixed, as he fancied, in an expression that betokened interest — 
almost tenderness ! 

He returned it with an involuntary glance of admiration, 
which he made but an awkward attempt to conceal. Lest it 
might be mistaken for rudeness, he suddenly faced round ; and 
once more addressed himself to the planter — who had just finished 
thanking him for his civility. 

" I am but ill deserving thanks," was his rejoinder, " thus to 
leave you with a chance of losing your way. But, as I've told 
you, my time is measured." 

The despatch-bearer consulted his watch — as though not a 
little reluctant to travel alone. 

" You are very kind, sir," said Poindexter ; " but witli the 
directions you have given us, I think we shall be able to manage. 
The sun will surely show us " 

" No : now I look at the sky, it will not. There are clouds 
looming up on the north. In an hour, the sun may be obscured 
— at all events, before you can get within sight of the cypress. 
It will not do. Stay! " he continued, after a reflective pause, 
" I have a better plan still : follow the trail of my lazo ! " 

While speaking, he had lifted the coiled rope from his saddle- 
bow, and flung the loose end to the earth — the other being 
secured to a ring in the pommel. Then raising his hat in grace- 
ful salutation — more than half directed towards the travelling 
carriage — he gave the spur to his steed ; and once moi*e bounded 
oflT over the prairie. 



THE TBAIL OF THE LAZO. 13 

The lazo, lengthening out, tightened over the hips of his 
horse ; and, dra^^g a dozen yards behind, lefb a line upon the 
cmereons surface — as if some slender serpent had been making 
its passage across the plain. 

" An exceedingly curious fellow ! " remarked the planter, as 
they stood gazing after the horseman, fast becoming hidden 
faemnd a cloud of sable dust. " I ought to have asked him his 
name?" 

"An exceedingly conceited fellow, I should say," muttered 
Calhoun ; who had not failed to notice the glance sent by the 
stranger in the direction of the carriole, nor that which had 
ch^enged it. '' As to his name, I don't think it matters much. 
It mightn't be his own he would give you. Texas is full of 
snch swells, who take new names when they get here — by way 
of improvement, if for no better reason." 

" Come, cousin Cash," protested young Poindexter ; " you are 
nnjnst to the stranger. He appears to be educated — in fact, 
a gentleman — worthy of bearing the best of names, I should 
saj." 

"A gentleman! Deuced unlikely: rigged out in that fan- 
&ion fashion. I never saw a man yet, that took to a Mexican 
dress, who wasn't a Jack. He's one, I'll be bound." 

During this brief conversation, the fair occupant of the 
carriole was seen to bend forward ; and direct a look of evident 
interest, after the form of the horseman fast receding from her 
view. 

To this, perhaps, might have been traced the acrimony ob- 
servable in the speech of Calhoun. 

" What is it. Loo ? " he inquired, riding close up to the 
carriage, and speaking in a voice not loud enough to be heard 
by the others. " You appear impatient to go forward ? Perhaps 
you'd like to ride off along with that swaggering fellow ? It 
isn't too late : I'll lend you my horse." 

The young girl threw herself back upon the seat — evidently 
displeased, both by the speech and the tone in which it was de- 
livered. But her displeasure, instead of expressing itself in a 
frown, or in the shape of an indignant rejoinder, was concealed 
under a guise far more galling to him who had caused it. 
A clear ringing laugh was the only reply vouchsafed to him. 
" So, so ! I thought there must be something — by the way 
you l>ehaved yourself in his presence. You looked as if you 
would have relished a tete-a-iete with this showy despatch-bearer. 
Taken with his stylish dress, I suppose H Fine feathers make 
fine birds. His are borrowed. I may strip them off some day, 
along with a little of the skin that's under them." 
" For shame, Cassius ! your words arc a scandal ! " 
" 'Tis you shoidd think of scandal. Loo ! To let your thoughts 
turn on a common scamp — a masquerading fellow like that ! No 
doubt the letter carrier, employed by the officers at the Fort ! " 



14 THE HEADLEBS HOBSElliJr. 

'' A letier carrier, yon think? Oh, how I should like to get 
love letters by such a postman ! " 

** Yon had better hasten on, and tell him so. My horse ia at 
yonr service." 

" Ha ! ha ! ha ! What a simpleton yon show yonrself ! Sup- 
pose, for jesting's sake, I did have a fancy to overtake tlua 
prairie postman ! It couldn't be done npon that dnll steed of 
yonrs : not a bit of it ! At the rate he is going, he and his 
blood-bay will be ont of sight before you conld change saddles 
for me. Oh, no! he's not to be overtaken by me, however 
much I might like it ; and perhaps I mi^ht like U ! " 

" Don't let yonr father hear yon talk in that way." 

"Don't let him hear you talk in that way," retorted the 
yonng lady, for the first time speaking in a serious strain. 
** Though you are my cousin, and papa may think you the pink 
of perfection, I don't — not I ! I never told you I did — did I ? " 

A frown, evidently called forth by some unsatisfactory reflec- 
tion, was the only reply to this tantalizing interrogative. 

" You are my cousin," she continued, in a tone that contrasted 
strangely with the levity she had already exhibited, " but you 
are nothing more — nothing more — Captain Cassius Calhoun ! 
You have no claim to be my counsellor. There is but one from 
whom I am in duty bound to take advice, or bear reproach. 
I therefore beg of you. Master Cash, that you will not again 
presume to repeat such sentiments — as those yon have just 
favoured me with. I shall remain mistress of my own thoughts 
— and actions, too — till I have found a master who can control 
them. It is not you ! " 

Having delivered this speech, with eyes flashing — ^half angrily, 
half contemptuously — upon her cousin, the young Creole once 
more threw herself back upon the cushions of the carriole. 

The closing curtains admonished the ex-ofl&cer, that further 
conversation was not desired. 

Quailing under the lash of indignant innocence, he was only 
too happy to hear the loud " gee-on " of the teamsters, as the 
waggons commenced moving over the sombre surface — not more 
sombre than his own thoughts. 



CHAPTER ni. 

THE PRAIKIE FINGER-POST. 



The travellers felt no further uneasiness about the route. The 
snake- like trail was continuous ; and so plain that a child might 
have followed it. 

It did not run in a right line, but meandering among the 
thickets ; at times turning out of the way, in places where the 



TEB FSilBlE lIHGIBpPOirr. 15 

gRnmd wa» dear of iamber. Tliis had evidentlj l)een done with 
an intent to avoid obstraction to the waggons : since at each of 
iliese windings the travellers conld perceive that there were 
Imaks, or other ineqnalitieB, in the surface. 

"How very thonghtM of the yonng fellow ! " remarked Poin- 
dester. " I reaDy feel regpret at not having asked for his^name. 
If he belong to the Fort, we shall see him again." 
"No doobb of it," assented his son. " I hope we shall." 
His daughter, reclining in shadow, overheard the conjectural 
ipeech, as well as the rejoinder. She said nothing ; but her glance 
towards Heniy seemed to declare that her heart fondly echoed 
die hope. 

Cheered by the prospect of soon terminating a toilsome jour- 
ney — as also by the pleasant anticipation of beholding, before 
nmset, his new purchase — the planter was in one of his happiest 
moods. His aristocratic bosom was moved by an unusual 
amount of condescension, to all around him. He chatted fami- 
liarly with his overseer ; stopped to crack a joke with " Uncle " 
Scipio, hobbling along on blistered heels ; and encouraged 
** Aunt " Chloe in the transport of her piccaninny. 

" Marvellous ! " might the observer exclaim — misled by such 
exceptional interludes, so pathetically described by the scribblers 
in Lucifer's pay — " what a fine patriarchal institution is slavery, 
after all ! Afler all we have said and done to abolish it ! A 
waste of sympathy — sheer philanthropic folly to attempt the 
destruction of this ancient edifice — worthy comer- stone to a 
* chivalric ' nation ! Oh, ye abolition fanatics ! why do ye clamour 
against it ? Know ye not that some must suffer — must work and 
starve — that others may enjoy the luxury of idleness? That 
some must be slaves, that others may be free ? " 

Such arguments — at which a world might weep — have been 
of late but too often urged. Woe to the man who speaks, and 
the nation that gives ear to them ! 

• ' * # * • 

The planter's high spirits wore shared by his pai-ty, Calhoun 
alone excepted. They were reflected in the faces of his black 
bondsmen, who regarded him as the source, and dispenser, of 
their happiness, or misery — omnipotent — next to God. They 
loved him less than God, and feared him more ; thouprli he was 
by no means a bad master — that is, h}j cojnpariaon. He did not 
absolutely take delight in tortui-ing them. Ho liked to see them 
well fed and clad — their epidermis shining with the exudation 
of its own oil. These signs bespoke the importance of their 
proprietor — himself. He was satisfied to let them off with an 
occasional " cowhiding " — salutary, he would assure you; and 
in all his " stock " there was not one black skin marked with 
the mutilations of vengeance — a proud boast for a Missisaippian 
slave-owner, and more than most could truthfully lay claim to. 

In the presence of such an exemplary owner, no wonder that 



16 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAK. 

the cheerfulness was universal — or that the slaves should partake 
of their master's joy, and give way to their garrulity. 

It was not destined that this joyfulness should continue to 
the end of their journey. It was after a time interrupted — not 
suddenly, nor by any fault on the part of those indulging in it, 
but by causes and circumstances over which they had not the 
slightest control. 

As the stranger had predicted : the sun ceased to be visible, 
before the cypress came in sight. 

There was nothing in this to cause apprehension. The 
line of the lazo was conspicuous as ever ; and they needed no 
guidance from the sun : only that his cloud-eclipse produced a 
corresponding effect upon their spirits. 

" One might suppose it close upon nightfall," observed the 
planter, drawing out his gold repeater, and glancing at its dial ; 
" and yet it 's only three o'clock ! Lucky the young fellow haa 
left us such a sure guide. But for him, we imght have floundered 
among these ashes till sundown ; perhaps have been compelled 
to sleep upon them." 

" A black bed it would be," jokingly rejoined Henr}-, with 
the design of rendering the conversation more cheerftd. " Ugh ! 
I should have such ugly dreams, were I to sleep upon it." 

" And I, too," added his sister, protruding her pretty face 
through the curtains, and taking a survey of the surrounding 
scene : " I'm sure I should dream of Tartarus, and Pluto, and 
Proserpine, and " 

" Hya ! hya ! hya ! " grinned the black Jehu, on the box — 
enrolled in the plantation books as Fluto Foindexter — "De 
young missa dream 'bout me in de mids' ob dis brack praira ! 
Golly ! dat am a good joke — berry ! Hya ! hya ! hya ! " 

" Don't be too sure, all of ye," said the surly nephew, at this 
moment coming up, and taking part in the conversation — 
" don't be too sure that you won't have to make your beds upon 
it yet. I hope it may be no worse." 

" What mean you, Cash ? " inquired the uncle. 

" I mean, imcle, that that fellow's been misleading us. I 
won't say it for certain ; but it looks ugly. We've come more 
than five miles — six, I should say — and where's the tree ? I've 
examined the horizon, with a pair of as good eyes as most have 
got, I reckon ; and there isn't such a thing in sight." 

" But why should the stranger have deceived us ? " 

"All — why? That's just it. There may be more reasons 
than one." 

" Give us one, then ! " challenged a silvery voice from the 
carriole. " We're all ears to hear it ! " 

" You're all ears to take in everything that's told you by 
a stranger," sneeringly replied Calhoun. " I suppose if I gave 
my reason, you'd be so charitable as to call it a false alarm ! " 

" That depends on its character, Master Cassius. I think you 



THE P£AIB1£ FINOEE-POST. 17 

might Tentnre to try us. We Bcarcely expect a false alarm from 
a soldier, as well as traveller, of your experience." 

CaUioim felt the taunt ; and woidd probably have withheld the 
commmiication he had intended to make, but for Poindexter 
himself. 

" Come, Cassius, explain yourself! " demanded the planter, in 
atone of respectful authority. '^ You have said enough to excite 
something more than curiosity. For what reason should the 
joung fellow be leading us astray ? '' 

" Well, uncle," answered the ex-ofl&cer, retreating a little from 
his original accusation, '^ I haven't said for certain that he is ; 
only that it looks like it." 

" In what way ? " 

"Well, one don't know what may happen. Travelling 
parties as strong, and stronger than we, have been attacked on 
these plains, and plundered of everything— murdered." 

" Mercy ! " exclaimed Louise, in a tone of terror, more 
affected than real. 

" By Indians," replied Poindexter. 

"Ah — Indians, indeed! Sometimes it may be; and some- 
times, too, they may be whites who play at that game — not all 
Mexican whites, neither. It only needs a bit of brown paint ; 
a horsehair wig, with half a dozen feathers stuck into it ; that, 
and jplenty of hullabalooing. If we were to bo robbed by a 
party of white Indians, it wouldn't be the first time the thing's 
been done. We as good as half deserve it — for our greenness, 
in trusting too much to a stranger." 

"Good heavens, nephew! this is a serious accusation. Do 
you mean to say that the despatch-rider— if he be one — is lead- 
ing us into — into an ambuscade ? " 

"No, uncle; I don't say that.^ I only say that such things 
have been done; and it's possible he may,'' 

" But not probabhy" emphatically interposed the voice from 
the carriole, in a tone tauntingly quizzical. 

" No ! " exclaimed the stripling Henry, who, although riding 
a few paces ahead, had overheard the conversation. "Your 
suspicions are unjust, cousin Cassius. I pronounce them a 
calumny. What's more, I can prove them bo. Look there ! 

The youth had reined up his horse, and was pointing to 
an object placed conspicuously by the side of the path; 
which, before speaking, he had closely scrutinized. It was a 
tall plant of the columnar cactus, whose green succulent stem 
had escaped scathing by the fire. 

It was not to the plant itself that Henry Poindexter di- 
rected the attention of his companions ; but to a small white 
disc, of the form of a parallel ogi-am, impaled upon one of its 
spines. No one accustomed to the usages of civilized life could 
mistake the " card." It was one. 

" Hear what's written upon it I " continued the young man. 



18 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAX. 

riding nearer, and reading aloud the directions pencilled upon 
the bit of pasteboard. 

" The cypress in sight ! " 

" Where ? " inquired Poindexter. 

" There's a hand," rejoined Henry, " with a finger pointing 
— no doubt in the direction of the tree." 

All eyes were instantly turned towards the quarter of the 
compass, indicated by the cipher on the card. 

Had the sun been shining, the cypress might have been seen 
at the first glance. As it was, the sky — late of cerulean hue — 
was now of a leaden grey ; and no straining of the eyes could 
detect anjiihing along the horizon resembling the top of a 
tree. 

" There's nothing of the kind," asserted Calhoun, with re- 
stored confidence, at the same time returning to his unworthy 
accusation. "It's only a dodge — another link in the chain of 
tricks the scamp is plajdng us." 

** You mistake, cousin Cassius," replied that same voice that 
had so often contradicted him. " Look through this lorgnette ! 
K you haven't lost the sight of those superior eyes of yours, you'll 
see something very like a tree — a tall tree — and a cypress, too, 
if ever there was one in the swamps of Louisiana." 

Calhoun disdained to take the opera glass from the hands of 
his cousin. He knew it would convict him : for he could not 
suppose she was telling an untruth. 

Poindexter availed himself of its aid ; and, adjusting the 
focus to his failing sight, was enabled to distinguish the red- 
leafed cypress, topping up over the edge of the prairie. 

" It *s true," he said : " the tree is there. The young fellow- 
is honest : you've been Avi'onging him. Cash. I didn't think it 
likely ho should have taken such a queer plan to make fools of 
us. Ho there ! Mr. Sansom ! Direct your teamsters to drive 
on ! 

Calhoun, not caring to continue the conversation, nor yet 
remain longer in company, spitefully spurred his horse, and 
trotted oflf over the prairie. 

" Let me look at that card, Henry ? " said Louise, speaking to 
her brother in a restrained voice. " I'm curious to see the 
cipher that has been of such service to us. Bring it away, 
brother : it can be of no further use where it is — ^now that we 
have sighted the tree." 

Henry, without the slightest suspicion of liis sister's motive 
for making the request, pelded obedience to it. 

Releasing the piece of pasteboard from its impalement, he 
" chucked " it into her lap. 

^^ Maurice Gerald!'* muttered the young Creole, afler deci- 
phering the name upon the card. ** Alaurico Gerald ! " she 
repeated, in apostrophic thought, as she deposited the piece 
of pasteboard in her bosom. ** Whoever you are — ^whence you 




THE BLACK NORTHEE.^ 19 

have come — whither you are going — what you may be — hence' 
forth there is a fate between us ! I feel it — I know it — sure 
as there's a sky above ! Oh ! how that sky lowers ! Am I to 
take it as a type of iliis still untraced destiny ? 



CHAPTER rV^ 

THE BLACK NORTHER. 



For some seconds, after surrendering herself to the Sybilline 
thoughts thus expressed, the young lady sate in silence — ^her 
white hands cla4sped across her temples, as if her whole soul 
was absorbed in an attempt, either to explain the past, or pene- 
^ate the future. 

Her reverie — ^whatever might be its cause — was not of long 
dnration. She was awakened from it, on hearing exclamations 
without — mingled with words that declaimed some object of ap- 
prehension. 

She recognized her brother's voice, speaking in tones that 
betokened alarm. 

" Look, father ! don't you see them ? " 

" Where, Henry— where ? " 

** Yonder — behind the waggons. You see them now ? " 

" I do — though I can't say what they are. They look like — 

like " Poindexter was puzzled for a simile — " I really don't 

know what." 

"Waterspouts?" suggested the ex-captiiin, who, at sight of 
the strange objects, had condescended to rejoin the party 
around the carriole. "Surely it can't be that? It's too far 
ftam the sea. I never heard of their occurring on the prairies." 

" They are in motion, whatever they be," said Henrj-. " See ! 
they keep closing, and then going apart. But for that, one might 
mistake them for huge obelisks of black marble ! " 

" Giants, or ghouls ! " jokingly suggested Calhoim ; " ogres 
irom some other world, who've taken a fancy to have a pro- 
menade on this abominable prairie ! " 

The ex-officer was only humorous with an effort. As well 
as the others, he was under the influence of an uneasy feeling. 

And no wonder. Against tlic northern horizon had sud- 
denly become upreared a number of ink-coloui*ed columns — 
half a score of them — unlike an^iihing ever seen before. They 
were not of regular columnar form, nor fixed in any way; but 
constantly changing size, shape, and place — now steadfast for a 
time — now gliding over the charred surface like giants upon 
skates — anon, bending and balancing towards one another in 
the most fantastic figurings ! 

It required no great effort of imagination, to fancy the Titang 



20 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

of old, resuscitated on the prairies of Texas, leading a measure 
after some wild carousal in the company of Bacchus ! 

In the proximity of phenomena never observed before — 
unearthly in their aspect — unknovm to every individual of the 
party — it was but natural these should be inspired with alarm. 

And such was the fact. A sense of danger pervaded every 
bosom. All were impi*essed with a belief: tliat they were in 
the presence of some peril of the prairies. 

A general halt had been made on first observing the strange 
objects : the negroes on foot, as well as the teamsters, giving 
utterance to shouts of terror. The animals — mules as well as 
horses^ had come instinctively to a stand — the latter neighing and 
trembling — the former filling the air with their shrill screams. 

These were not the only sounds. From the sable towers 
could be heard a hoarse swishing noise, that resembled the sough 
of a waterfall — at intervals breaking into reverberations like the 
roll of musketry, or the detonations of distant thunder ! 

These noises were gradually growing louder and more distinct. 
The danger, whatever it might be, was drawing nearer ! 

Consternation became depicted on the countenances of the 
travellers, Calhoun's forming no exception. The ex-officer no 
longer pretended levity. The eyes of all were turned towards 
the lowering sky, and the band of black columns that appeared 
coming on to crush them ! 

At this crisis a shout, reaching their ears from the opposite 
side, was a source of relief — despite the unmistakable accent of 
alarm in which it was uttered. 

Turning, they beheld a horseman in full gallop — riding direct 
towards tliem. 

The horse was black as coal : the rider of like hue, even to 
the skin of his face. For all that he was recognized : as the 
stranger, upon the trail of whose lazo they had been travelling. 

The perceptions of woman are quicker than those of man : 
the young lady within the carriole was the first to identify him. 

" Onward ! " he cried, as soon as within speaking distance. 
" On — on ! as fast as you can drive ! " 

" What is it ? '* demanded the planter, in bewildered alarm. 
" Is there a danger ? *' 

" There is. I did not anticipate it, as I passed you. It was 
only after reaching the river, I saw the sure signs of it." 

"Of what, sir?" 

" The northern 

" You mean the storm of that name ? " 

"I do." 

" I never heard of its being dangerous," interposed Calhoun, 
" except to vessels at sea. It's precious cold, I know ; but " 

" You'll find it worse than cold, sir," interrupted the young 
horseman, " if youVe not quick in getting out of its way. Mr. 
Poindexter," he continued, turning to the planter, and speaking 



THE BLACK XORTHEK. 21 

with impatient emphasis, " I tell you, that yon and yonr party 
are in peril. A norther is not always to be dreaded ; but this 
one — look yonder ! Yon see those black pillars ? " 

"WeVe been wondering — didn't know what to make of 
them." 

** They^re nothing — only the precursors of the storm. Look 
beyond! Don't you see a coal-black cloud spreading over 
the sky? That's what you have to dread. I don't wish to 
eanse yon unnecessary flJarm : but I tell you, there's death in 
yonder shadow! It's in motion, and coming this way. You 
have no chance to escape it, except by speed. If you do not make 
haste, it will be too late. In ten minutes' time you may be 
enveloped, and then — quick, sir, I entreat you ! Order your 
drivers to hurry forward as fast as they can ! The sky — heaven 
itself — commands you ! " 

The planter did not think of reusing compliance, with an 
appeal urged in such energetic terms. The order was given for 
the teams to be set in motion, and driven at top speed. 

Terror, that inspired the animals equally with their drivers, 
rendered superfluous the use of the whip. 

The travelling carriage, with the mounted men, moved in 
front, as before. The stranger alone thi*ew himself in the rear 
— as if to act as a guard against the threatening danger. 

At intervals he was observed to rein up his horse, and look 
back : each time by his glances betraying increased apprehension. 

Perceiving it, the planter approached, and accosted him with 
the inquiry : 

^'^Is there still a danger ? " 

" I am sorry to answer you in the affirmative," said he : "I 
had hopes that the wind might be the other way." 

" Wind, sir? There is none — that I can perceive." 

" Not here. Yonder it is blowing a hurricane, and this way 
too — direct. By heavens 1 it is nearing us rapidly ! ' I doubt 
if we shall be able to clear the burnt track." 

"What is to be done ? " exclaimed the planter, terrified by 
the announcement. 

" Are your mules doing their best ? " 

" They are : they could not be driven faster." 

" I fear we shall he too late, then ! " 

As the speaker gave utterance to this gloomy conjecture, lie 
reined round once more ; and sate regarding the cloud columns — 
as if calculating the rate at which they were advancing. 

The lines, contracting around his lips, told of something more 
than dissatisfaction. 

" Yes : too late ! " he exclaimed, suddenly terminating his 
scrutiny. " They are moving faster than we — far faster. There 
is no hope of our escaping them ! " 

" Good God, sir 1 is the danger so great ? Can we do nothing 
to avoid it?" 



22 THE HEADLESS UOBSSHAN. 

The stranger did not make immediate reply. For some 
seconds lie remained silent, as if reflecting — ^his glance no longer 
turned towards tlie sky, but wandering among the waggons. 

" Is there no chance of escape ? " urged the planter, with the 
impatience of a man in presence of a great peril. 

" There is ! " joyfully responded the horseman, as if some hope- 
ful thought had at length suggested itself. " There is a chance, 
I did not think of it before. We cannot shun the storm — ^the 
danger wo may. Quick, Mr. Poindexter ! Order your men to 
muffle the mules — the horses too — otherwise the animals will be 
blinded, and go mad. Blankets — cloaks — ^anything wiU do. 
When that's done, let all seek shelter within the waggons. Let 
the tilts be closed at the ends. I shall myself look to the tra- 
velling carriage." 

Having delivered this chapter of instructions — ^which Poin- 
dexter, assisted by the overseer, hastened to direct the execution 
of — the young horseman galloped towards the front. 

" Madame ! " said he, reining up alongside the carriole, and 
speaking with as much suavity as the circumstances would 
admit of, " you must close the curtains all round. Your coach- 
man will have to get inside ; and you, gentlemen ! " he con- 
tinued, addressing himself to Henry and Calhoun — " and you^ 
sir ; " to Poindexter, who had just come up. " There will be 
room for all. Inside, I beseech you! Lose no time. In a 
few seconds the storm will be upon us ! " 

" And you, sir ? " inquired the planter, with a show of inte- 
rest in the man who was making such exertions to secure them 
against some yet unascertained danger. "What of yourself? " 

" Don't waste a moment upon me. I know what's coining. 
It isn't the first time I have encountered it. In — in, I entreat 
you ! You haven't a second to spare. Listen to that shriek ! 
Quick, or the dust-cloud will be around us ! " 

The planter and his son sprang together to the ground ; and 
retreated into the travelling carriage. 

Calhoim, refosrag to dismount, remained stiffly seated in his 
saddle. Why should he skulk from a visionary danger, that did 
not deter a man in Mexican garb ? 

The latter turned away ; as he did so, directing the overseer 
to get inside the nearest waggon — a direction which was obeyed 
with alacrity — and, for the first time, the stranger was left free 
to take care of himself. 

Quickly unfolding his serapS — hitherto strapped across the 
cantle of his saddle — he flung it over the head of his horse. 
Then, drawing the edges back, he fastened it, bag-fashion, around 
the animal's neck. With equal alertness he undid his scarf of 
China crape ; and stretched it around his sombrero — fixing it in 
such a way, that one edge was held under the bullion band, while 
the other dropped down over the brim — ^thus forming a silken 
visor for his face. 



TUB BLACK NOKTILEU. 23 

Before finally closing it, he tnmed once more towards the 
emriole ; and, to his surprise, saw Calhonn still in the saddle. 
Hnmaniiy trimnphed oyer a feeling of incipient aversion. 

^ Once again, sir, I adjure yon to get inside ! If yon do not 
joall have cause to repent it. Within ten minutes* time, you 
may be a dead man ! '* 

The positive emphasis with which the caution was delivered 
produced its effect. In the presence of mortal focman, Cassius 
uJhoun was no coward. But there was an enemy approach- 
mg that was not mortal — not in any way understood. It 
was already making itself manifest, in tones that resembled 
tinmder — in shadows that mocked the darkness of midnight. 
Who would not have felt fear at the approach of a destroyer so 
declaring itself? 

The ex-officer was unable to resist the united warnings of 
earth and heaven ; and, slipping out of his saddle with a show 
of reluctance — ^intended to save appearances — ho clambered into 
tile carriage, and ensconced himself behind the closely- drawn 
eirtains. 

* ****** 

To describe what followed is beyond the power of the pen. 
5o eye beheld the sp.ectacle : for none dared look upon it. Even 
had this been possible, nothing could have been seen. In five 
minutes afler ike muffling of the mules, the train was enveloped 
in worse than Cimmerian darkness. 

The opening scene can alone be depicted : for that only was 
observed by the travellers. One of the sable columns, moving 
in the advance, broke as it came in collision with the waggon- 
tflts. Down came a shower of black dust, as if the sky 
had commenced raining gunpowder ! It was a foretaste of what 
was to follow. 

There was a short interval of open atmosphere — hot as the 
inside of an oven. Then succeeded puffs, and whirling gusts, of 
wind— cold as if projected from caves of ice, and accompanied by 
a noise as though all the trumpets of Eolus were announcing 
the advent of the Storm- King ! 

In another instant the norther was around them ; and the 
waggon train, halted on a subtropical plain, was enveloped in 
an atmosphere, akin to that which congeals the icebergs of the 
Arctic Ocean ! 

Nothing more was seen — nothing heard, save the whistling 
of the wind, or its hoarse roaring, as it thundered against the 
tilts of the waggons. The mules having instinctively turned 
stem towards it, stood silent in their traces ; and the voices of 
the travellers, in solemn converse inside, could not be dis- 
tinguished amid the howling of the hurricane. 

Every aperture liad been closed : for it was soon discovered, 
that to show a face from under the sheltery canvas was to court 
suffocation. The air was surcharged witli ashes, lifted alofb 



24 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

from the burnt plain, and reduced, by the whirling of the wind, 
to an impalpable but poisonous powder. 

For over an hour did the atmosphere cany this cinereous 
cloud; during which period lasted the imprisonment of the 
travellers. 

At length a voice, speaking close by the curtains of the 
carriole, announced their release. 

" You can come forth ! " said the stranger, the crape scarf 
thrown back above the brim of his hat. " You will still have 
the storm to contend against. It will last to the end of your 
journey ; and, perhaps, for three days longer. But you have 
nothing farther to fear. The ashes are all swept off. They've 
gone before you; and you're not likely to overtake them this side 
the Rio Grande." 

" Sir ! " said the planter, hastily descending the steps of the 
carriage, " we have to thank you for — for " 

" Our lives, father ! " cried Henry, supplying the proper words. 
" I hope, sir, you will favour us with your name ? " 

^^ Maurice Oerald T* retximed the stranger; "though, at the 
Fort, you will find me better known as Maurice the mustan^erJ' 

" A mustanger ! " scomftdly muttered Calhoun, but only loud 
enough to be heard by Louise. 

" Only a mustanger ! '* reflected the aristocratic Poindexter, 
the fervour of his gratitude becoming sensibly chilled. 

" For guide, you will no longer need either myself, or my 
lazo," said the hunter of wild horses. " The c^T)res8 is in sight : 
keep straight towards it. After crossing, you will see the flag 
Dver the Fort. You may yet r6ach your journey's end before 
night. I liave no time to tarry ; and must say adieu." 

Satan himself, astride a Tartarean steed, could not have 
looked more like the devil than did Maurice the Mustanger, as 
he separated for the second time fix>m the planter and liis party. 

But neither liis ashy envelope, nor the announcement of his 
humble calling, did aught to damage him in the estimation of 
one, whose thoughts were already predisposed in his favour — 
Louise Poindexter. 

On hearing him declare his name — ^by presumption already 
known to her — she but more tenderly cherished the bit of card- 
board, chafing against her snow-white bosom ; at the same time 
muttering in soft pensive soliloquy, heard only by herself: — 

" Maurice the mustanger ! despite your sooty covering — 
despite your modest pretence — ^you have touched the heart of a 
Creole maiden. Mon JDieu — mon JDieu ! He is too like Lucifer 
for me to despise him / " 




L 



25 
CHAPTER V. 

THE HOME OF THE HOBSE-HTJlTrEB. 

Where the Bio de Nueces (River of Nuts) collects its waters 
from a hundred tributary streams — lining the map like the limbs 
of a grand genealogical tree — ^you may look upon a land of sur- 
passing fairness. Its surface is " rolling prairie/' interspersed 
with ^nmpg of post-oak and pec4n, here and there along the 
hankB of the watercourses uniting into continuous groves. 

In some places these timbered tracts assume the aspect of the 
ime ckapparal — a thicket, rather than a forest — its principal 
growth Doing various kinds of acacia, associated with copaiva 
and creosote trees, with wild aloes, with eccentric shapes of 
eereoBy cactus, and arborescent yucca. 

ThMe spinous forms of vegetation, though repulsive to the eye 
of the agriculturist — as proving the utter sterility of the soil — 
praent an attractive aspect to the botanist, or the lover of 
Mature ; especially when the cereus unfolds its huge wax-like 
bloaaoms, or the Fauquiera splendens overtops the surrounding 
fihrabbery with its spike of resplendent flowers, like a red flag 
TiangiTig unfolded along its stafl*. 

The whole region, however, is not of this character. There 
ttre stretches of greater fertility ; where a black calcareous earth 
gives nourishment to trees of taller growth, and more luxuriant 
foliage. The "wild China" — a true sapindal — the pecan, the 
aim, the hackbeny, and the oak of several species — with here 
snd there a cypress or cottonwood — form the components of 
many a sylvan scene, which, from the blending of their leaves 
of various shades of green, and the ever changing contour of 
Ibeir clumps, deserves to be denominated fair. 

The streams of this region are of crystal purity — their waters 
tinted only by the reflection of sapphire skies. Its sun, moon, 
and stars are scarcely ever concealed behind a cloud. The demon 
cf disease has not found his way into this salubrious spot : no 
epidemic can dwell within its borders. 

Despite these advantages, civilized man has not yet made it 
his home. Its paths arc trodden only by the red-skinned rovers 
of the prairie — Lipano or Comanche — and these only when 
mounted, and upon the maraud towards the settlements of the 
Lower Nueces, or Leona. 

It may be on this account — though it would almost seem as 
if they were actuated by a love of the beautiful and picturesque 
— that the true children of Nature, the wild animals, have 
selected thLs spot as their favourite habitat and home. In no 
part of Texas does the stag bound up so often before you ; and 
nowhere is the timid antelope so frequently seen. The rabbit, 



26 ' THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

and his gigantic cousin, tlio mnle-rabbit, are scarcely ever out of 
sight ; while the polecat, the opossnm, and the cnrious peccary, 
are enconntered at freqnent intervals. 

Birds, too, of beantiful forms and colours, enliven the land- 
scape. The quail whirrs np from the path ; the king vnltnre 
wheels in the ambient air; the wild turkey, of gigantic stature, 
suns his resplendent gorget by the side of the pecan copse ; and 
the singular tailor-bird — known among the rude Rangers as the 
** bird of paradise " — flouts his long scissors-like tail among the 
feathery fronds of the acacia. 

Beautiful butterflies spread their wide wings in flapping 
flight ; or, perched upon some gay corolla, look as if they formed 
part of the flower. Huge bees (^MeliponcB), clad in velvet liveries, 
buzz amid the blossoming bushes, disputing possession with 
hawkmoths and hunmiing-birds not much larger than them- 
selves. 

They are not all innocent, the denizens of this lovely land. 
Here the rattlesnake attains to larger dimensions than in any 
other part of North America, and shares the covert with the 
more dangerous moccasin. Here, too, the tarantula inflicts its 
venomous sting; the scorpion poisons with its bite; and the 
centipede, by simply crawling over the skin, causes a fever that 
may prove fatal ! 

Along the wooded banks of the streams may be encountered 
the spotted o9elot, the puma, and their more powerful congener, 
the jaguar ; the last of these ^^/t^ being here upon the northern 
limit of its geographical range. 

Along the edges of the chapparal skulks the gaimt Texan 
wolf — solitarily and in silence ; while a kindred and more 
cowardly species, the coyote^ may be observed, far out upon the 
open plain, hunting in packs. 

Sharing the same range with these, the most truculent of 
quadrupeds, may be seen the noblest and most beautifrd of 
animals — ^perhaps nobler and more beautiful than man — certainly 
the most distinguished of man's companions — the horse ! 

Here — ^independent of man's caprice, his jaw unchecked by 
bitt or curb, his back unscathed by pack or saddle — ^he roams 
unrestrained ; giving way to all the wildness of his nature. 

But even in this, his favourite haunt, he is not always left 
alone. Man presumes to be his pursuer and tamer : for hero 
was he sought, captured, and conquered, by Maurice the 
Mustanaer, 

• *•••• 

On the banks of the Alamo — one of the most sparkling 
streamlets that pay tribute to the Nueces — stood a dwelling, 
unpretentious as any to be found within the limits of Texas, and 
certainly as picturesque. 

Its walls were composed of split trunks of the arborescent 
yucca, set stockade-fashion in the ground ; while its roof was a 



THE HOMB OF THE HOBSE-HUNTEB. 27 

ifaatdi famished by the long bayonet-shaped leaves of the same 
gigSDtic lily. 

The intenddceB between the uprights, instead of being 
"chinked" with clay — as is common in tlie cabins of Western 
Texas — ^were covered by a sheeting of horse-skins ; attached, not 
Ij iron tacks, but with the sharp spines that terminate the leaves 
dihepita plant. 

On wie bluffs, that on both sides overlooked the rivnlet — and 
which were but the termination of the escarpment of the higher 
piain — grew in abundance the material out of which the hut had 
Been constructed : tree yuccas and maaueys^ amidst other rugged 
fypes of sterile vegetation ; whereas the fertile valley below was 
covered with a growth of heavy timber — consisting chiefly of 
red-mulberry, post-oak, and peobi, that formed a forest of 
sereral leagues in length. The timbered tract was, in fact, 
conternmious with the bottom lands ; the tops of the trees scarce 
wing to a level with the escarpment of the cliff. 

It was not continuous. Along the edge of the streamlet were 
littkB — ^forming little meads, or savannahs, covered with that 
Bort nutritious of grasses, known among Mexicans as grama. 

In the concavity of one of these, of semicircular shape — 
which served as a natural lawn — stood the primitive dwelling 
above described; the streamlet representing the chord; while 
tiie curve was traced by the trunks of the trees, that re- 
sembled a series of columns supporting the roof of some sylvan 
coliseum. 

The structure was in shadow, a little retired among the trees ; 
IB if the site had been chosen with a view to concealment. It 
ooold have been seen but by one passing along the bank of 
the stream ; and then only with the observer directly in front of 
it Its rude style of architecture, and russet hue, contributed 
still farther to its inconspicuousness. 

The house was a mere cabin — ^not larger than a marquee tent 
— with only a single aperture, the door — if we except the flue of 
a slender clay chmmey, erected at one end against the upright 
posts. The doorway had a door, a light framework of wood, 
with a horse-skin stretched over it, and hung upon hinges cut 
from the same hide. 

In the rear was an open shed, thatched with yucca leaves, 
and supported by half a dozen posts. Around this was a small 
enclosure, obtained by tying cross poles to the trunks of the 
adjacent trees. 

A still more extensive enclosure, containinpf within its cir- 
cumference more than an acre of the timbered tract, and fenced 
in a similar manner, extended rearward from the ealnn, ter- 
minating against the bluff. Its turf tracked and torn by 
numerous hoof-prints — in some places trampled into a hard 
surface — told of its use : a " corral " for wild horses — mustangs. 
This was made still more manifest by the presence of a dozen 

c 2 



28 THE HEADLESS HOBSEHAN. 

or more of these animals within the enclosure ; whose glaring 
eyeballs, and excited actions, gave evidence of their recent 
capture, and how ill they brooked the imprisonment of that 
shadowy paddock. 

The interior of the hut was not without some show of neat- 
ness and comfort. The sheeting of mustang-skins that covered 
the walls, with the hairy side turned inward, presented no mean 
appearance. The smooth shining coats of all colours — ^black, 
bay, snow-white, sorrel, and skewbald — offered to the eye a 
surface pleasantly variegated ; and there had evidently been some 
taste displayed in their arrangement. 

The furniture was of the scantiest kind. It consisted of a 
counterfeit camp bedstead, formed by stretching a horse-hide 
over a framework of trestles ; a couple of stools — diminutive 
specimens on the same model ; and a rude table, shaped out of 
hewn slabs of the yucca-tree. Something like a second sleeping 
place appeared in a remote comer — a " shakedown, " or 
'* spread," of the universal mustang-skin. 

What was least to be expected in such a place, was a shelf 
containing about a score of books, with pens, ink, suid jpapiterie ; 
also a newspaper lying upon the slab table. 

Further proofs of civilization, if not refinement, presented 
themselves in the shape of a large leathern portmanteau, a 
double-barrelled gun, with "Westley Richards " upon the breech; 
a drinking cup of chased silver, a huntsman's horn, and a dog- 
call. 

Upon the floor were a few culinaiy utensils, mostly of tin ; 
while in one comer stood a demijohn, covered with wicker, and 
evidently containing something sta*onger than the water of the 
Alamo. 

Other " chattels " in the cabin were perhaps more in keeping 
with the place. There was a high-peaked Mexican saddle; a 
bridle, with headstall of plaited hors«hair, and reins to cor- 
respond ; two or three spare scrapes, and some odds and ends of 
raw-hide rope. 

Such was the structure of the mustanger's dwelling — snch its 
surroundings — such its interior and contents, with the exception 
of its living occupants — two in number. 

On one of the stools standing in the centre of the floor was 
seated a man, who could not be the mustanger himself. In no 
way did ho present the semblance of a proprietor. On the con- 
trary, the air of the servitor — the mien of habitual obedience — 
was impressed upon him beyond the chance of misconstruction. 

Rude as was the cabin that sheltered him, no one entering 
under its roof would have mistaken him for its master. 

Not that he appeared ill clad or fed, or in any way stinted in 
his requirements. He was a round plump specimen, with a 
shock of carrot-coloured hair and a bright ruddy skin, habited 
in a suit of stout stuff— half corduroy, half cotton- velvet. The 



THE HOME OF THE HOBSE-HUNTEB. 29 

oardnroy was in the shape of a pair of knee-breeches, with 
gaiters to correspond ; the yelveteen, once bottle green, now 
hded to a brownish bne, exhibited itself in a sort of shooting 
ooat^ with ample pockets in the breast and skirts. 

A " wide-awake " hat, cocked over a pair of eyes eqnally de- 
flenring the appellation, completed the costnme of the individual 
in qnestion — if we except a shirt of coarse calico, a red cotton 
kerchief loosely knotted around his neck, and a pair of Irish 
hnyue* npon his feet. 

It needed neither the brogues, nor the corduroy breeches, to 
prodaim his nationality. His lips, nose, eyes, air, and attitude, 
were all unmistakably Milesian. 

Had there been any ambiguity about this, it would have been 
dispelled as he opened his mouth for the emission of speech ; 
snd this he at intervals did, in an accent that could only have 
been acquired in the shire of Galway. As he was the sole 
Imman occupant of the cabin, it might be supposed that he 
■poke only in soliloquy. Not so, however. Couched upon a 
piece of horse-skin, in front of the fire, with snout half buried 
among the ashes, was a canine companion, whose appearance 
bespoke a coimtryman — a huge Irish staghound, that looked 
as if he too understood the speech of Connemara. 

Whether he did so or not, it was addressed to him, as if he 
was expected to comprehend every word, 

** Och, Tara, me jewel ! " exclaimed he in the corduroys, fra- 
ternally interrogating the hound ; " hadn't yez weesh now to be 
back in BallybaJlagh ? Wadn't yez loike to be wanco more in 
the coortyard av the owld castle, friskin* over the clane stones, 
an' bein tripe-fed till there wasn't a rib to be seen in your sides 
— so different from what they arr now — when I kyan count ivery 
wan av them ? Sowl ! it's meself that ud loike to be there, 
anyhow ! Bud there's no knowin' when the yoxmg masther '11 go 
hack, an' take us along wid him. Niver mind, Tara! He's 
goin' to the Sittlements soon, ye owld dog ; an' he's promised to 
take us thare ; that's some cousolashun. Bo japers ! it 's over 
three months since I've been to the Fort, meself. Maybe I'll find 
some owld acquaintance among them Irish sodgers that's come 
lately ; an' be me sowl, av I do, won't there be a dhrap betwane 
us — won't there, Tara ? " 

The staghound, raising his head at hearing the mention of his 
name, gave a slight sniff, as if saying " Yes " in answer to Hie 
droll interrogatory. 

" I'd like a dhrap now," continued the speaker, casting a 
covetous glance towards the wickered jar ; " mightily I wud 
that same ; but the dimmyjan is too near bein' empty, an' the 
voung masther might miss it. Besides, it wudn't bo rjial 
nonest av mo to take it widout lave — wud it, Tara ? " 

The dog again raised his head above the ashes, and sneezed 
as before. 

c 3 



so THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

" Why, that was yis, the last time ye spoke ! Div yez mane it 
for the same now ? Till me, Tara ! " 

Once more the hound gave utterance to the sound — ^that 
appeared to be caused either by a slight touch of influenza, or 
the ashes having entered his nostrils. 

" ' Yis ' again ? In trath that's just fwhat the dumb crayiher 
manes! Don't timpt me, ye owld thief! No — no; I won't 
touch the whisky. 1*11 only draw the cork out av the dimmy- 
jan, an' take a smell at it. Shure the masther won't know 
anything about that ; an* if he did, ho wudn't mind it ! Smellin' 
kyant do the pothyeen any harm." 

During the concluding portion of this utterance, the speaker 
had forsaken his seat, and approached the comer where stood 
the jar. 

Notwithstanding the professed innocence of his intent, there 
was a steaJthiness about his movements, that seemed to argue 
either a want of confidence in his own integrity, or in his power 
to resist temptation. 

He stood for a short while listening — his eyes turned towards 
the open doorway ; and then, taking up the demijohn, he drew 
out the stopper, and held the neck to his nose. 

For some seconds he remained in this attitude: giving out 
no other sign than an occasional ^' sniff," similar to that uttered 
by the hound, and which he had been fain to interpret as an 
affirmative answer to his interrogatoiy. It expressed the enjoy- 
ment he was deriving from the bouquet of the potent spirit. 

But this only satisfied him for a very short time ; and gradually 
the bottom of the jar was seen going upwards, while the reverse 
end descended in like ratio in the direction of his protruding 
lips. 

" Be japers ! " he exclaimed, once more glancing stealthily 
towards the door, " flesh and blood cudn't stand the smell av that 
bewtiful whisky, widout tastin' it. Trath ! I'll chance it — jist 
the smallest thrifle to wet the tap av my tongue. Maybe it 'U 
bum the skin av it ; but no matther — hero goes ! " 

Without further ado the neck of the demijohn was brought in 
contact with his lips ; but instead of the " smallest thrifle " to 
wet the top of his tongue, the " gluck — gluck " of tlie escaping 
fluid told that he was administering a copious saturation to the 
whole lining of his larynx, and something more. 

After half a dozen " smacks '* of the mouth, with other excla- 
mations denoting supreme satisfiiction, he hastily restored the 
stopper ; returned the demijohn to its place ; and glided back 
to his scat upon the stool. 

" Tara, ye owld thief!" said he, addressing himself once more 
to his canine companion, "it was you that timpted me! No 
matther, man : the masther '11 niver miss it ; besides, he's goin* 
soon to the Fort, an' can lay in a fresh supply." 

For a time the pilferer remained silent ; either reflecting on 



THE BPOTTED MUSTANG. 31 

tJie ftcfc he liad committed, or enjoying the effects which iho 
''potheen" had produced upon his spirits. 

His silence was of short duration ; and was terminated hy a 
sdiloquj. 

" I wondher," muttered he, " fwhat makes Masther Maurice so 
aiudoas to get back to the Sittlements. Ho says he'll go when- 
iver he catches that spotty mustang he has seen lately. Sowl ! 
isn't he bad afiher that baste ! I suppose it must bo somethin' 
beyant the common — the more be token, as he has chased the 
craytiier three times widout bein' able to throw his rope over 
it — an* mounted on the blood-bay, too. He sez he won't give 
it up, till he gete howlt of it. Trath ! I hope it'll be gmpped 
fldon, or wez may stay here till the mamin' av doomsday. , Hush ! 
ftrhat'sthat?" " 

Tara springing up from his couch of skin, and rushing out 
with a low growl, had caused the exclamation. 

« Phelim ! " hailed a voice from the outside. " Phelim ! " 

" It's the masther,'' muttered Phelim, as he jimiped from his 
fltool, and followed the dog through the doorway. 



CHAPTER YI. 

THE SPOTTED MUSTANG. 



Phelim was not mistaken as to the voice that had hailed him. 
It was that of his master, Maurice Gerald. 

On getting outside, he saw the mustanger at a short distance 
from the door, and advancing towards it. 

As the servant should have expected, his master was mounted 
upon his horse — no longer of a reddish colour, but appearing 
ahnost black. The animal's coat was darkened with sweat ; its 
counter and flanks speckled with foam. 

The blood-bay was not alone. At the end of the lazo— drawn 
taut from the saddle tree — ^was a companion, or, to Bpcak more 
accurately, a captive. With a leathern thoug looped around its 
under jaw, and flrmly embracing the bars of ite mouth, kept 
in place by another passing over its neck immediately behind 
the ears, was the captive secured. 

It was a mustang of peculiar appearance, as regarded* its 
markings ; which were of a kind rarely seen — even among the 
largest " gangs " that roam over the prairie pastures, whero 
colours of the most eccentric patterns are not uncommon. 

That of the animal in question was a ground of dark choco- 
late — in places approaching to black — witli wliitc spots dis- 
tributed over it, as regularly as the contrary colours upon the 
skin of the jaguar. 

As if to give effect to this pleasing arrangement of hues, the 



32 THB HEADLESS H0B8EHAK. 

creature was of perfect shape — broad chested, full in the flanks, 
and clean limbed — with a hoof showing half a score of concentric 
rings, and a head that might have been taken as a type of equine 
beauty. It was of large size for a mustang, though mncb 
smaller than the ordinary English horse ; even smaller than the 
blood-bay — himself a mustang — that had assisted in its cap- 
ture. 

The beautiful captive was a mare — one of a manada that fre- 
quented the plains near the source of the Alamo ; and where, 
for the third time, the mustanger had unsuccessfully chased 
it. 

In his case the proverb had proved untrue. In the third time 
he had not found the " charm " ; though it favoured him in the 
fourth. By the fascination of a long rope, with a running noose 
at its end, he had secured the creature that, for some reason 
known only to himself, he so ardently wished to possess. 

Phelim had never seen his master return from a horse-hunting 
excursion in such a state of excitement ; even when coming back 
— as he often did — with half a dozen mustangs led loosely at 
the end of his lazo. 

But never before at the end of that implement had Phelim 
beheld such a beauty as the spotted mare. She was a thing to 
excite the admiration of one less a connoisseur in horse-flesh 
than the ci-devant stable-boy of Castle Ballagh. 

" Hooch — hoop — hoora ! " cried he, as he set eyes upon the 
captive, at the same time tossing his hat high into the air. 
"Thanks to the Howly Vargin, an* Saint Pathrick to boot, 
Masther Maurice, yez have cotched the spotty at last ! It's a 
mare, be japers ! Och ! the purty crayther ! I don*t wondher 
yez hiv been so bad about gettin' howlt av her. Sowl ! if yea 
had her in Ballinasloe Fair, yez might ask your own price, and 
get it too, widout givin' sixpence av luckpenny. Oh ! the purty 
crayther! Where will yez hiv her phut, masther? Into the 
corral, wid the others ? " 

" No, she might get kicked among them. Wo shall tie her in 
the shed. Castro must pass his night outside among the trees. 
K he's got any gallantry in him he won't mind that. Did you 
ever see anything so beautiful as she is, Phelim — I mean in the 
way of horseflesh ? " 

" Niver, Masther Maurice ; niver, in all me life ! An' I've seen 
somfe nice bits av blood about Ballyballagh. Oh, the purty 
crayther ! she looks as if a body cud ate her ; and yit, in trath, 
she looks like she wud ate you. Yez haven't given her the 
schoolin' lesson, have yez ? " 

" No, Phelim : I don't want to break her just yet — ^not till I 
have time, and can do it properly. It would never do to spoil 
such perfection as that. I shall tame her, after we've taken her 
to the Settlements." 

" Yez be goin' there, masther ? " 



THE SPOTTED MUSTAlfa. 33 

" To-morrow. We shall start by daybreak, so as to make only 
one day between bere and the Fort." 

" Sowl ! I'm glad to hear it. Not on me own account, but 
jonrs, Masther Maurice. Maybe yez don't know that the whisky's 
on the idge of bein' out ? From the rattle av the jar, I don't 
iliink there's more than three naggins left. Them sutlers at 
the Fort aren't honest. They chate ye in the mizyure ; besides 
watherin' the whisky, so that it won't bear a dhrap more out av 
the strame hare. Trath ! a gallon av Innishowen wud last ayqual 
to three av this Amerikin rotgut, as the Yankees themselves 
diristen it." 

"Never mind about the whisky, Phelim — I suppose there's 
enough to last us for this night, and fill our flasks for the journey 
of tomorrow. Look alive, old Ballyballagh ! Let us stable the 
spotted mare ; and then I shall have time to talk about a fresh 
supply of * potheen,' which I know you like better than anything 
^Ob- — except yourself! " 

** And you, Masther Maurice ! " retorted the Galwegian, with 
ft eomieal twinkle of the eye, that caused his master to leap 
kaghingly out of the saddle. 

• ***** 

The spotted mare was soon stabled in the shed, Castro being 
temporarily attached to a tree ; where Phelim proceeded to groom 
him after the most approved prairie fashion. 

The mustanger threw himself on his horse-skin couch, wearied 
with the work of the day. The capture of the " yiegua pinta " 
had cost him a long and arduous chase — such as ho had never 
ridden before in pursuit of a mustang. 

There was a motive that had urged him on, unknown to 
Phelim — unknown to Castro who carried him — unknown to living 
creature, save himself 

Notwithstanding that he had spent several days in the saddle — 
the last three in constant pursuit of the spotted maro — despite 
the weariness thus occasioned, he was unable to obtain repose. 
At intervals he rose to his feet, and paced the floor of his hut, 
as if stirred by some exciting emotion. 

For several nights he had slept uneasily — at intervals tossing 
upon his catre — tOl not only his henchman Phelim, but his hound 
Tara, wondered what could be the meaning of his unrest. 

The former might have attributed it to his desire to possess 
the spotted mare ; had he not known that his master's feverish 
feeling antedated his knowledge of the existence of this peculiar 
quadruped. 

It was several days after his last return from the Fort that the 
"yegua pinta" had first presented herself to the eye of the 
mustanger. That therefore could not be the cause of his altered 
demeanour. 

His success in having secured the animal, instead of tran- 
quillizing his spirit, seemed to have produced the contrary efiect. 



34 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAN. 

At least, so thonglit Phelim : who — ^with the freedom of that 
relationship known as " foster-brother " — ^had at length detesw 
mined on questioning his master as to the cause of his inquietude. 

As the latter laj shifting from side to side, he was sainted 
with the interrogatory, — 

" Masther Maurice, fwhat, in the name of the Howly Vargin, is 
the matther wid ye ? " 

" Nothing, Phelim — ^nothing, mabohil ! What makes yon think 
there is ? " 

" Alanndh ! How kyan I help thinkin it ! Yez kyant get a 
wink av sleep ; niver since ye returned the last time from the 
Sittlement. Och ! yez hiv seen somethin' there that kapes ye 
awake ? Shure now, it isn't wan av them Mixikin girls — maw* 
chachas, as they call them ? No, I won't believe it. You wudn*t 
be wan av the owld Geralds to care for such trash as them." 

"Nonsense, my good fellow! There's nothing the matter 
with me. It's all your own imagination." 

" Trath, masther, yez arr mistaken. If there's anything asthray 
wid me imaginashun, fhwat is it that's gone wrong wid yonr 
own ? That is, whin yez arr aslape — which aren't often av late." 

" When I'm asleep ! What do you mean, Phelim ? " 

" What div I mane ? Fwhj, that wheniver yez close your ^es 
an' think yez are sleepin', ye begin palaverin', as if a preast was 
confessin' ye ! " 

" Ah ! Is that so ? What have you heard me say ? " 

" Not much, masther, that I cud make sinse out av. Yez be 
always tryin' to pronounce a big name that appares to have no 
indin', though it begins wid a point.'* 

« A name ! What name ? " 

"Sowl! I kyan't till ye exakly. It's too long for me to 
remimber, seein' that my edicashun was intirely neglicted. But 
there's another name that yez phut before it ; an' that I kyan tell 
ye. It's a wuman's name, though it's not common in the owld 
counthry. It's Looaze that ye say, Masther Maurice ; an* then 
comes the point." 

" Ah ! " interrupted the young Irishman, evidently not caring 
to converse longer on the subject. " Some name I may have heard 
— somewhere, accidentally. One does have such strange ideas in 
dreams ! " 

"Trath! yez spake the truth there; for in your drames, 
masther, ye talk about a purty girl lookin' out av a carriage wid 
curtains to it, an' tellin' her to close them agaynst some danger 
that yez are going to save her from." 

" I wonder what puts such nonsense into my head ? " 

" I wondher meself," rejoined Phelim, fixing his eyes upon his 
young master with a stealthy but scrutinizing look. " Shure,** 
he continued, "if I may make bowld to ax the quistyun — » 
shure, Masther Maurice, yez haven't been makin' a Judy Fitz- 
summon's mother av yerself, an' fallin' in love wid wan of these 



THB 8F0TTSD MUSTAITG. 35 

Yankee weemen out bare P Och an-an-eo ! that wad be a mia- 
farthone; an' fhwat wnd sbe saj — the pnrtj eoUeen wid the 
goodlen bair an' bine eyes, that Utcs not twinty miles firom 
BallybaDagb?" 

" Pob, poh ! Phelim ! you're taking leave of your senses, I 
fear." 

" Tratb, masther, I aren't ; but I know somethin' I wnd Hke 
to take lave av." 

"Wbatisthat? Not me, I bojpe ? " 

** Yon, alannah ? Niver ! It's Tixos I mane. I'd like to take 
Isre of tbat ; an' yon goin' along wid me back to the owld sad. 
Arrah, now, fhwat's the use ay yer stayin' here, wastin' the best 
part av yer days in doin' nothin' ? Shure yez don't make more 
than a bare liyin' by the horse-catchin' ; an' if yez did, what 
mathers it ? Yer owld aunt at Castle Bailagh can't howld out 
much longer ; an' when she's did, the bew&nl demane '11 be 
yoBTB, spite ay the dhirty way she's thratin' ye. Shure tlie pro- 
perty's got a tail to it; an' not a mother's son ay them can 
lipe ye out ay it ! " 

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed the young Irishman : "you're quite 
a lawyer, Phelim. What a first-rate attorney you'd haye made ! 
Bat come ! You forget that I hayen't tasted food since morning. 
What haye you got in the larder ? " 

** Trath ! there's no great steck, masther. Yez hayen't laid in 
anjtbin' for the three days yez hiy been afbher spotty. There's 
only the cowld yenison an' the corn-bread. If yez like I'll phut 
the venison in the pat, an' make a hash av it." 

" Yes, do so. I can wait." 

" Won't yez wait betther afbher tastin' a dhrap av the CTay- 
ther?" 

" True— let me have it." 

** Will yez take it nate, or with a little wather ? Trath ! it 
won't carry much av that same." 

** A glass of grog— draw the water fresh from the stream." 

Phefim took hold of the silver drinking-cup, and was about 
stepping outside, when a growl from Tara, accompanied by a 
atart, and followed by a rush across the floor, caused the ser- 
vitor to approach the door with a certain degree of caution. 

The barking of the dog soon subsided into a series of joyful 
whimperings, which told that he had been gratified by the sight 
of some old acquaintance. 

" It's owld Zeb Stump," said Phelim, first peeping out, and 
then stepping boldly forth — with the double design of greeting 
the new comer, and executing the order he had received from 
his master. 

The individual, who liad tlms freely presented himself in front 
of the mustanger's cabin, was as unlike either of its occupants, 
aa one from the other. 

He stood full six feet high, in a pair of tall boots, fabricated 



3G THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAN. 

ont of tanned alligator-skin ; into the ample tops of which were 
thrust the bottoms of his pantaloons — the latter being of woollen 
l^omespun, that had been dyed with " dog-wood ooze," but was 
now of a simple dirt colour. A deerskin under shirt, without 
any other, covered his breast and shoulders ; over which was a 
" blanket coat," that had once been green, long since gone to 
a greenish yellow, with most of the wool worn off. 

There was no other garment to be seen : a slouch felt hat, of 
greyish colour, badly battered, completing the simple, and 
somewhat scant, collection of his wardrobe. 

He was equipped in the style of a backwoods hunter, of the 
true Daniel Boone breed: bullet- pouch, and large crescent- 
shaped powder-horn, both suspended by shoulder-straps, hanging 
xmder the right arm ; a waist-belt of thick leather keeping his 
coat closed and sustaining a skin sheath, from which protruded 
the rough staghom handle of a long-bladed knife. 

He did not affect either mocassins, leggings, nor the caped and 
fringed tunic shirt of dressed deerskin worn by most Texan 
hunters. There was no embroidery upon his coarse clothing, 
no carving upon his accoutrements or weapons, nothing in his 
tout ensemble intended as ornamental. Everything was plain 
almost to rudeness : as if dictated by a spirit that despised *' fan- 
feron." 

Even the rifle, his reliable weapon — the chief tool of his trade 
— ^looked like a rounded bar of iron, with a piece of brown 
unpolished wood at the end, forming its stock ; stock and barrel, 
when the butt rested on the ground, reaching up to the level of 
his shoulder. 

The individual thus clothed and equipped was apparently 
about fifty years of age, with a complexion inclining to dark, 
and features that, at first sight, exhibited a grave aspect. 

On close scrutiny, however, could be detected an underlying 
stratum of quiet humour ; and in the twinkle of a small greyish 
eye therfi was evidence that its owner could keenly relish a 
joke, or, at times, perpetrate one. 

The Irishman had pronounced his name: it was Zebulon 
Stump, or " Old Zeb Stump," as he was better known to the 
very limited circle of his acquaintances. 

" E^aintuck, by birth an' raisin' " — as he would have described 
himself, if asked the coxmtry of his nativity — he had passed the 
early part of his life among the primeval forests of the Lower 
Mississippi — ^his sole calling that of. a hunter; and now, at a 
later period, he was performing the same metier in the wilds of 
South-western Texas. 

The behaviour of the staghound, as it bounded before him, 
exhibiting a series of canine welcomes, told of a friendly ac- 
quaintance between Zeb Stump and Maurice the mustanger. 

"Evenin*!" laconically saluted Zeb, as his tall figure shadowed 
the cabin door. 



THB 8P0TTXD MUSTANO. 37 

"Gt)od eyening, Mr. Stamp!" rejoined the owner of the 
hnt, rising to receive him. " Step inside, and take a seat ! " 

The hunter accepted the invitation ; and, Tnaking a single stride 
across the floor, i^r some awkward manoenvring, succeeded in 
planting himself on the stool lately occupied by Phelim. The 
lowness of the seat brought his knees upon a level with his chin, 
the tail rifle rising like a pikestafl* several feet above his head. 

** Dum stools, anyhow ! " muttered he, evidently dissatisfied 
with the posture ; " an' churs, too, for thet matter. I likes to 
plant my stam upon a log : thur yeVe got somethin' under ye as 
ain't like to guv way." 

"Try that," said his host, pointing to the leathern port- 
manteau in the comer : " you'll find it a firmer seat." 

Old Zeb, adopting the suggestion, unfolded the zigzag of his 
colossal carcase, and transferred it to the trunk. 

" On foot, Mr. Stump, as usual ? " 

"No : I got my old critter out thur, tied to a saplin'. I wa'n't 
ahnntin'." 

** You never hunt on horseback, I believe ? " 

** I shed be a greenhorn if I dud. Anybody as goes huntin' 
a hossback must be a dumation fool ! " 

" But it's the universal fashion in Texas ! " 

" Univarsal or no, it air a fool's fashion — a dumed lazy fool's 
fashion ! I kill more meat in one day afnt, then I ked in a 
hnl week wi' a hoss atween my legs. I don't misdoubt that a 
boss air the best thing for you — bein* as yur game's entire 
different. But when ye go arter baar, or deer, or turkey eyther, 
ye won't see much o' them, trampin' about through the timmer a 
hossback, an' scarrin' everythin' es hes got ears 'ithin the circuit 
o' a mile. As for bosses, I shedn't be bothered wi' ne'er a one 
no how, ef twa'n't for paddn' the meat : thet's why I keep my 
ole maar." 

" She's outside, you say ? Let Phelim take her round to the 
shed. Tou'U stay all night ? " 

" I kim for that purpiss. But ye needn't trouble about the 
maar : she air hitched safe enuf. I'll let her out on the laryitt, 
afore I take to grass." 

" You'll have something to eat ? Phelim was just getting 
supper ready. I'm sorry I can't offer you anything very dainty 
— some hash of venison." 

*' Nothin' better 'n good deermeat, 'ceptin it be baar ; but I 
hke both done over the coals. Maybe I can help ye to some'at 
thet' 11 make a roast. Mister Pheelum, ef ye don't mind steppin' 
to whar my critter air hitched, ye'll find a gobbler hangin' over 
the horn o' the seddle. I shot the bird as I war comin' up the 
crik." 

" Oh, that is rare good fortune ! Our larder has got very low 
— quite out, in truth. I've been so occupied, for the last three 
days, in chasing a very curious mustang, that I never thought of 



38 THB HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

taking mj gxm with me. Phelim and I, and Tara, too, had got 
to the edge of starvation." 

" Whet sort o' a mustang ? " inquired the hunter, in a tone 
that betrayed interest, and without appearing to notice the final 
remark. 

** A marc ; with white spots on a dark chocolate ground — a 
splendid creature ! " 

"Dum it, young fellur! thet air's the very bizness thet's 
brung me over to ye." 

" Indeed ! " 

" I've seed that mustang — ^maar, ye say it air, though I kedn't 
teU, as she'd niver let me 'ithin hef a mile o' her. I've seed 
her several times out on the purayra, an' I jest wanted ye to go 
arter her. I'll tell ye why. I've been to the Leeona settle- 
ments since I seed you last, and since I seed her too. Wal, theer 
hev kum thur a man as I knowed on the Massissippi. He air a 
rich planter, as used to keep up the tallest kind o' doin's, 'spe- 
cially ia the feestin' way. Many's the joint o' deermeat^ and 
many's the turkey-gobbler this hyur coon hes surplied for his 
table. His name air Peintderter." 

"Poindexter?" 

" Thet ail' the name — one o' the best known on the Massissippi 
£rom Orleens to St. Looey. He war rich then ; an, I reck'n, ain't 
poor now — soein' as he's brought about a hunderd niggers along 
wi' him. Beside, thur's a nephew o' hisn, by name Calhoun. ■ 
He's got the dollars, an' nothin' to do wi' 'em but lend 'em to his 
uncle — the which, for a sartin reezun, I think he wilL Now, 
joung fellur, I'll tell ye why I wanted to see yo». Thet 'ere 
planter hcv got a darter, as air dead bent upon hossflesh. She 
used to ride the skittishest kind o' cattle in Loozeyanner, whaar 
ihey lived. She heem me tellin' the old 'un 'bout the spotted 
mustang ; and nothin' would content her thur and then, till ho 
promised he'd offer a big price for catchin' the critter. He sayed 
he'd give a kupplo o' hunderd dollars for the anymal, ef 'twur 
anythin like what I sayed it wur. In coorse, I knowed thet 'ud 
send all the mustangers in the settlement straight custrut arter 
it ; so, saj-in' nuthin' to nobody, I kim over hyur, fast as my 
ole maar 'ud fetch me. You grup thet 'ere spotty, an' Zeb 
Stump '11 go yur bail ye'll grab them two hunderd dollars." 

" Will you stop this way, Mr. Stump ? " said the young Irish- 
man, rising from liis stool, and proceeding in the direction of 
the door. 

The hunter followed, not without showing some surprise at 
the abrupt invitation. 

Maurice conducted his visitor round to the rear of the cabin ; 
and, pointing into the shed, inquired, — 

" Does that look anything like the mustang you've been 
speaking of? " 

" Dog-gone my cats, ef 'taint the eycdcnticul same 1 Grupped 



SOCTUBNAL AKNOTAVCES. 39 

arready ! Two Inmderd dollars, easy as slidin' down a barked 
saplin' ! Young fellur, yur in Inck : two hxmderd, slick sure ! — 
and dum me, ef the anymal ain't worth every cent o' the 
money! (3edioso&t! what a putty beest it air! Won't Miss 
Peintdexter be pleezed ! It'll turn that young critter 'most 
cnay!" 



CHAPTER Vn. 

KOCTUENAL AinffOYANCES. 



The unexpected discovery, that his purpose had been already 
anticipated by the capture of the spotted mustang, raised the 
^nrits of the old hunter to a high pitch of excitement. 

They were further elevated by a portion of the contents of 
iJbe demijohn, which held out beyond Phelim's expectations: 
fifing all hands an appetizing '' nip " before attacking the roast 
inkey, with another go each to wash it down, and several more 
to accompany the post-cenal pipe. 

While this was being indulged in, a conversation was carried 
on ; the themes being those that all prairie men delight to talk 
about : Indian and hunter lore. 

As Zeb Stump was a sort of living encyclopcedia of the 
latter, he was allowed to do most of the talking ; and he did it 
in such a &shion as to draw many a wondering ejaculation from 
the tongue of the astonished Galwegian. 

Long before midnight, however, the conversation was brought 
io a close. Perhaps the empty demijohn Was, as much as any- 
thing else, the monitor that urged their retiring to rest ; though 
there was another and more creditable reason. On the morrow, 
the mustanger intended to start for the Settlements ; and it was 
necessaiy i£iat all should be astir at an early hour, to make pre- 
paration for the journey. The wild horses, as yet but slightly 
tamed, had to be strung together, to secure against their escap- 
ing by the way ; and many other matters required attending to 
previous to departure. 

The hunter had already tethered out his " ole maar " — as he 
designated the sorry specimen of horseflesh ho was occasionally 
accustomed to bestride — and had brought back with him an old 
yellowish blanket, which was all he ever used for a bed. 

" You may take my bedstead," said his courteous host ; " I 
can lay myself on a skin along the floor." 

"No," responded the guest; "none o' yer shelves for Zeb 
Stump to sleep on. I prefar the solid groun'. I kin sleep sounder 
on it ; an' besides, thur's no fear o' fallin' over." 

" If you prefer it, then, take the floor. Here's the best place. 
I'll spread a hide for you." 

" "l oung fellur, don't you do anythin' o' the sort ; ye'll only 



40 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

be wastin* jut time. This child don't sleep on no floors. His 
bed air the green grass o' the pnrayra." 

"What! you're not going to sleep outside?" inquired the 
mustanger in some surprise — seeing that his guest, with the old 
blanket over his arm, was making for the door. 

" I ain't agoin' to do anythin' else." 

" Why, the night is freezing cold — almost as chilly as a 
norther ! " 

" Dum that ! It air better to stan' a leetle chillishness, than 
a feelin' o' suffercation — ^which last I wud sartintly hev to go 
through ef I slep inside o' a house." 

" Surely you are jesting, Mr. Stump ? " 

" Young fellur ! " emphatically rejoined the hunter, without 
making direct reply to the question. " It air now nigh all o' 
six yeer since Zeb Stump hev stretched his ole karkiss unner a 
roof. I oncest used to hev a sort o' a house in the hollow o' a 
sycamore-tree. That wur on the Massissippi, when my ole 
ooman wur alive, an' I kep up the 'stablishment to 'commerdate 
her. Arter she went under, I moved into Loozeyanny ; an' then 
arterward kim out hyur. Since then the blue sky o' Texas hev 
been my only kiver, eyther wakin' or sleepin'." 

" If you prefer to He outside " 

"I prefar it," laconically rejoined the hunter, at the same 
time stalking over the threshold, and gliding out upon the little 
lawn that lay between the cabin and the creek. 

His old blanket was not the only thing he carried along 
with him. Beside it, hanging over his arm, could be seen 
some six or seven yards of a horsehair rope. It was a piece 
of a cabriesto — usually employed for tethering horses — though it 
was not for this purpose it was now to be used. 

Having carefolly scrutinized the grass within a circumference 
of several feet in diameter — which a shining moon enabled him 
to do — he laid the rope with like care around the spot examined, 
shaping it into a sort of irregular ellipse. 

Stepping inside this, and wrapping the old blanket around 
him, he quietly let himself down into a recumbent position. In 
an instant after he appeared to be asleep. 

And he was asleep, as his strong breathing testified : for Zeb 
Stump, with a hale constitution and a quiet conscience, had only 
to summon sleep, and it came. 

He was not permitted long to indulge his repose without 
interruption. A pair of wondering eyes had watched his every 
movement — the eyes of Phelim O'Neal. 

"Mother av Mozis ! " muttered the Gralwegian ; "fwhat can 
be the manin' av the owld chap's surroundin' himself wid the 
rope ? " 

The Irishman's curiosity for a while struggled with his 
courtesy, but at length overcame it ; and just as the slumberer 
delivered his third snore, he stole towards him, shook him out 



VOCTUBNAL ANNOYANCES. 41 

of Ids sleep, and proponnded a question based npon the one he 
had already pnt to himself. 

" Dnm ye for a Irish donkey ! *' exclaimed Stump, in evident 
displeasure at being disturbed; '^ye made me think it war 
momin' ! What do I put the rope roun* me for ? What else 
wud it be for, but to keep off the varmints ! " 

" What varmints, Misther Stump ? Snakes, div yez mane ? *' 

** Snakes in coorse. Dum ye, go to your bed ! '* 

Notwithstanding the. sharp rebuke, Phelim returned to the 
caliiii apparently in high glee. If there was anything in Texas, 
" barrin' an* above the Indyins themselves," as he used to say, 
** i^t kept him from slapin', it was them vinamous sarpints. 
He hadn't had a good night's rest, iver since he'd been in the 
counthry for thinkin' av the ugly vipers, or dhramin' about thim. 
What a pity Saint Pathrick hadn't paid Tixas a visit before 
goin' to grace ! " 

Phelim in his remote residence, isolated as he had been from 
aU intercourse, had never before witnessed the trick of the 
eAriesto. 

. He was not slow to avail himself of the knowledge thus 
aoqxdred. Returning to the cabin, and creeping stealthily inside 
— as if not wishing to wake his master, already asleep — he was 
seen to take a cabriesto from its peg; and then going forth 
again, he carried the long rope around the stockade walls — pay- 
ing it out as he proceeded. 

Having completed the circumvallation, he re-entered the hut ; 
as he stepped over the threshold, muttering to himself, — 

** Sowl ! Phalim O'Nale, you'll slape sound for this night, spite 
av all the snakes in Tixas ! " 

For some minutes after Phelim's soliloquy, a profound still- 
ness reigned around the hut of the mustanger. There was likc^ 
silence inside; for the countryman of St. Patrick, no longer 
apprehensive on the score of reptile intruders, had fallen asleep, 
aunost on the moment of his sinking down upon his spread 
horse-skin. 

For a while it seemed as if everybody was in the enjoyment 
of perfect repose, Tcu^ and the captive steeds included. Th(» 
only sound heard was that made by Zeb Stump's " maar," close 
by cropping the sweet grama grass. 

Presently, however, it might have been perceived that the 
old hunter was himself stirring. Instead of l^'ing still in the 
recumbent attitude to which he had consigned himself, he 
could be seen shifting from side to side, as if some fevorivsli 
thought was keeping him awake. 

After repeating this movement some half-scoro of times, ho 
at length raised himself into a sitting posture, and looked dis- 
contentedly around. 

"Dod-rot his ignorance and imperencc — the Irish cuss!*' 
were the words that came hissing through his teeth. " He's 



42 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAK. 

spoilt my night's rest, dum him ! 'Twould sarve him 'bout right 
to drag him out, an* gie liim a dnckin' in the crik. Dog-goned 
ef I don't leel *clined torst doin' it ; only I don't like to dis- 
pleeze the other Irish, who air a somebody. Possible I don't 
git a wink o' sleep till momin'." 

Having delivered liimself of this peevish soliloqny, the hunter 
cmce more drew the blanket around his body, and returned to 
the horizontal position. 

Not to sleep, however ; as was testified by the tossing and 
fidgeting that followed — terminated by his again raising himself 
into a sitting posture. 

A soliloquy, very similar to his former one, once more pro- 
ceeded from his lips ; this time the threat of ducking Phelim 
in the creek being expressed with a more emphatic accent of 
determination. 

He appeared to bo wavering, as to whether he should carry the 
design into execution, when an object coming under his eye 
gave a new turn to his thoughts. 

On the ground, not twenty feet from where he sate, a long 
thin body was seen gliding over the grass. Its serpent shape, 
and smooth lubricated skin — reflecting the silvery light of the 
moon — rendered the reptile easy of identification. 

" Snake ! " mutteringly exclaimed he, as his eye rested upon 
the reptilian form. " Wonder what sort it air, slickerin' abeout 
hyuB at this time o' the night ? It air too lurge for a rattle ; 
though thur air some in these parts most as big as it. But it air 
too clur i' the colour, an' thin about the belly, for ole rattletail ! 
No; 'tain't one o' them. Hah — now I ree-cog-nize the var- 
mint ! It air a chicken, out on the sarch arter eggs, I reck'n ! 
Dum the thiug! it air comin' torst me, straight as it kin 
crawl!" 

The tone in which the speaker delivered himself told that ho 
was in no fear of the reptile — even after discovering that it was 
making approach. He knew that the snake would not cross the 
cahriesto ; but on touching it would turn away : as if the horse- 
hair rope was a line of living fire. Secure within his magic 
circle, he could have looked tranquilly at the intruder, though it 
had been the most poisonous of prairie serpents. 

But it was not. On the contraiy, it was one of the most 
innocuous — harmless as the " chicken," from which the species 
takes its tri\'ial title — at the same time that it is one of the 
largest in the list of North- American reptilm. 

The expression on Zeb's face, as he sat regarding it, was 
simply one of curiosity, and not very keen. To a hunter in the 
constant habit of couching himself upon the grass, there was 
nothing in the sight either strange or terrifying ; not even when 
the creature came close up to the cahriesto, and, with head 
slightly elevated, rubbed its snout against the rope ! 

After that there was less reason to be afraid ; for the snaJce, 



IfOCTUENAL ANNOYANCES. 43 

an doing so, instantly turned round and commenced retreating 
over the sward. 

For a second or two the hunter watched it moving awaj, 
without making any movement himself. He seemed undecided 
as to whether he should follow and destroy it, or leave it to go 
as it had come — unscathed. Had it been a rattlesnake, " copper- 
head," or " mocassin," he would have acted up to the curse 
deHvered in the garden of Eden, and planted the heel of his 
heavy alligator-slmL boot upon its head. But a harmless chicken- 
snake did not come within the limits of Zeb Stump's antipathy : 
as was evidenced by some words muttered by him as it slowly 
receded from the spot. 

" Poor crawlin' critter ; let it go ! It ain't no enemy o' mine ; 
thoug^h it do suck a turkey's egg now an' then, an' in coorse 
scarcifies the breed o' the birds. Thet air only its nater, an' no 
reeznn why I shed be angry wi* it. But thur's a dumed good 
lettun why I shed bo wi' thet Irish — the dog-goned, stinkin' 
IdqI, to ha' woke me es he dud ! I feel dod-rotted like sarvin' 
hot out, ef I ked only think o' some way as wudn't diskermode 
Ae young fellur. Stay ! By Geehosofat, I've got the idee — the 
?ery thing — sure es my name air Zeb Stump ! " 

On giving utterance to the last words, the hunter — ^whose 
OGuntenance had suddenly assumed an expression of quizzical 
ekeerfnlness — sprang to his feet ; and, with bent body, hastened 
in pursuit of the relating reptile. 

A few strides brought him alongside of it ; when ho pounced 
upon it with all his ten digits extended. 

In another moment its long glittering body was uplifted from 
the CTOund, and writhing in his grasp. * 

"Now, Mister Pheelum," exclaimed he, as if apostrophizing 
ihe serpent, " ef I don't gi'e yur Irish soul a scare thet '11 keep 
je awake till momin*, I don't know buzzart from turkey. Hyur 
goes to purvide ye wi' a bedfellur ! " 

On saying this, he advanced towards tho hut ; and, silently 
flknlking under its shadow, released the serpent from his gripe 
— letting it faU within the circle of the cabriesto, with which 
Fhelim had so craftily surrounded his sleeping-place. 

Then returning to his grassy couch, and once more pulling 
the old blanket over his shoulders, he muttered, — 

** The varmint won't come out acrost the . rope — thet air 
sartin ; an' it ain't agoin' to leave a ynrd o' the groun' 'ithout 
explorin' for a place to git clur — thet's eequally sartin. Ef it 
don't crawl over thet Irish greenhorn 'ithin tho hef o' an hour, 
then ole Zeb Stump air a greenhorn hisself. Hi ! what's thet ? 
Dog-goned ef 'taint on him arready ! " 

If the hunter had any further reflections to give tongue to, 
they could not have been heard : for at that moment there arose 
a confusion of noises that must have startled every living crea- 
ture on the Alamo, and for miles up and down the stream. 



44 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

It was a limnan voice that had given the cue — or rather, a 
hnman howl, such as could proceed only from the throat of a 
Galwegian. Phelim O'Neal was the originator of the infernal 
frcicca. 

His voice, however, was soon drowned by a chorus of bark- 
ings, snortings, and neighings, that continued without interrup- 
tion for a period of several minutes. 

" What is it ? " demanded his master, as he leaped from 
the catfk^ and groped his way towards his terrified servitor. 
" What the devil has got into you, Phelim ? Have you seen a 
ghost ? »' 

" Oh, masther ! — by Jaysus ! worse than that : I've been mur- 
dhered by a snake. It's bit me all over the body. Blessed 
Saint Pathrick ! I'm a poor lost sinner ! I'll be shurc to die ! " 

" Bitten you, you say — where ? " asked Maurice, hastily 
striking a light, and proceeding to examine the skin of hiB 
henchman, assisted by the old hunter — who had by this time 
arrived within the cabin. 

" I see no sign of bite," continued the mustanger, after having 
turned Phelim round and roimd, and closely scrutinized his 
epidermis. 

" Ne'er a scratch," laconically interpolated Stump. 

" Sowl ! then, if I'm not bit, so much the better ; but it 
crawled all over me. I can feel it now, as cowld as charity, on 
me skin." 

" Was there a snake at all ? " demanded Maurice, inclined to 
doubt the statement of his follower. " You've been dreaming 
of one, Phelim — nothing more." 

" Not a bit of a dhrame, masther : it was a raal sarpint. Be 
me sowl, I'm shure of it! " 

"I reck'n thur's been snake," drily remarked the hunter. 
" Let's see if we kin track it up. Kewrious it air, too. Thur's 
a hair rope all roun' the house. Wonder how the varmint could 
ha' crossed thet ? Thur— thur it is ! " 

The hunter, as he spoke, pointed to a comer of the cabin, 
where the serpent was seen spirally coiled. 

" Only a chicken ! " he continued : " no more harm in it than 
in a suckin' dove. It kcdn't ha' bit ye, Mister Pheelum ; but 
we'll put it past bitin', anyhow." 

Saying this, the hunter seized the snake in his hands ; and, 
raising it alofb, brought it down upon the floor of the cabin with 
a " thwack " that almost deprived it of the power of motion. 

" Thur now. Mister Pheelum ! " he exclaimed, giving it the 
finishing touch with the heel of his heavy boot, " ye may go 
back to yur bed agin, an' sleep 'ithout fear o' bein' disturbed 
till the momin' — leastwise, by snakes." 

Kicking the defunct reptile before him, Zeb Stump strode 
out of the hut, gleefully chuckling to himself, as, for the third 
time, he extended his colossal carcase along the sward. 



45 
CHAPTER Vni. 

THB CRAWL OF THE ALACBAN. 

The killing of the snake appeared to be the cue for a general 
return to quiescence. The howlings of the hound ceased with 
those of the henchman. The mustangs once more stood silent 
nnder the shadowy trees. 

Inside the cabin the only noise heard was an occasional 
shuffling, when Phelim, no longer feeling confidence in the pro- 
tection of his cabriestOf turned restlessly on his horseskin. 

Outside also there was but one sound to disturb the stillness, 
though its intonation was in striking contrast with that heard 
within. It might have been likened to a cross between the 
grant of an alligator and the croaking of a bull-irog ; but pro- 
ceeding, as it did, from the nostrils of Zeb Stump, it could only 
he the snore of the slumbering hunter. Its sonorous fcdness 
proved him to be soundly asleep. 

He was — had been, almost from the moment of re-establishing 
himself within the circle of his cabriesto. The revanche obtained 
over his late disturber had acted as a settler to his nerves ; and 
once more was he enjoying the relaxation of perfect repose. 

For nearly an hour did this contrasting duet continue, varied 
only by an occasional recitative in the hoot of the great horned 
owl, or a cantata penserosa in the lugubrious wail of the prairie 
wolf. 

At the end of this interval, however, the chorus recommenced, 
breaking out abruptly as before, and as before led by the vocife- 
rous Toice of the Connemara man. 

" Meliah murdher ! " cried he, his first exclamation not only 
startling the host of the hut, but the guest so soundly sleeping 
outside. "Howly Mother! Vargin av unpurticted mnocence! 
Save me — save me ! " 

" Save you from what ? " demanded his master, once more 
springing from his couch and hastening to strike a light. " What 
is it, you confounded fellow ? " 

" Another snake, yer banner ! Och ! be me sowl ! a far wickeder 
sarpent than the wan ^Misther Stump killed. It's bit me all 
over the breast. I feel the place bumin' where it crawled across 
me, just as if the horse-shoer at Ballyballagh had scorched mo 
wid a rid-hot iron ! '* 

** Dum ye for a stinkin' skunk ! " shouted Zeb Stump, with his 
blanket about liis shoulder, quite filling the doorway. " YeVc 
twicest spiled my night's sleep, ye Irish fool ! 'Souse ine, Mister 
Gerald ! Thur air fools in all countries, I reck'n, 'Merican as 
well as Irish — but this hyur follerer o' youni air the dumdest o' 
the kind ivcr I kim acrost. Dog-goned if I see how Ave air to 



46 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

get any sleep the night, 'less we drownd him in the crik 
fast!" 

" Och ! ^listher Stump dear, don't talk that way. I sware to 
yez both there's another snake. I'm shnre it's in the kyabin 
yit. It's only a minute since I feeled it creepin' over me." 

" You must ha' been dreemin?" rejoined the hunter, in a more 
complacent tone, and speaking half interrogatively. "I tell ye no 
snake in Texas will cross a hosshair rope. The tother 'nn mnst 
ha* been inside the house afore ye laid the laryitt roun' it. 'Taint 
likely there ked ha' been two on 'em. We kin soon settle that 
by sarchin'." 

" Oh, murdher ! Luk Ijare ! " cried the Galwegian, pulling off 
his shirt and laying bare his breast. " Thare's the riptoile'B 
track, right acrass over me ribs ! Didn't I tell yez there was 
another snake ? O blisscd Mother, what will become av me ? It 
feels like a strake av fire ! " 

" Snake ! " exclaimed Stump, stepping up to the afirighted 
Irishman, and holding the candle close to his skin. '* Snake 
i'deed ! By the 'tamal airthquake, it air no snake ! It air wnsB 
than that ! " 

" Worse than a snake ? " shouted Phelim in dismay. " Worse, 
yez say, Misther Stump ? Div yez mane that it's dangerous ? " 

"Wal, it mout be, an' it moutn't. Thet ere '11 depend on 
whether I kin find somethin' 'bout hyur, an' find it soon. Bf 
I don't, then. Mister Pheelum, I won't answer " 

" Oh, Misther Stump, don't say thare's danger ! " 

" What is it ? " demanded Maurice, as his eyes rested upon a 
reddish lino running diagonally across the breast of his follower, 
and which looked as if traced by the point of a hot spindle. 
*' What is it, anyhow ? " ho repeated with increasing anxiety, as 
he observed the serious look with which the hunter regarded the 
Btrange marking. " I never saw the like before. Is it something 
to be alarmed about ? " 

"All o' thet, Mister Gerald," replied Stump, motioning 
Maurice outside the hut, and speaking to hini in a whisper, so 
as not to be overheard by Phelim. 

" But what is it ? " eagerly asked the mustanger. 

" It air the crawl o' the pise n centipede.^* 

" The poison centipede f Has it bitten him ? " 

"No, I hardly think it hez. But it don't need thet. The 
cratcl o' itself air enuf to kill him ! " 

** Merciful Heaven ! you don't mean that ? " 

"I do, Mister Gerald. I've seed more 'an one good fellur go 
under -vvi' that same sort o' a stripe aerost his skin. If thur 
ain't somethin' done, an' thet soon, he'll fust get into a ragin' 
fever, an' then he'll go out o' his senses, jest as if the bite o' a 
mad dog had gin him the hydrophoby. It air no use frightenin' 
him howsomdcvcr, till I sees what I kin do. Thur's a yarb, or 
raythcr it air a plant, as grows in these parts. Ef I kin find it 



THI CBAWL OF THS ALACSAK. 47 

handjj therell be no defeequiliy in cnrin' o' liim. Bnt as the cussed 
Inck wnd hev it, the moon hez sneaked ont o* sight ; an' I kin 
only get the yarb by gropin*. I know there air plenty o' it np 
on the blnff; an ef yon'U go back inside, an* keep the fellur qniet, 
ril see what kin be done. I won't be gone but a minute." 

The whispered colloquy, and the fact of the speakers having 
gone outside to carry it on, instead of tranquillizing the fears 
of Phelim, had by this time augmented them to an extreme 
d^ree : and just as the old hunter, bent upon his herborizing 
errand, disappeared in the darkness, ho came rushing forth from 
the hut, howling more piteously than ever. 

It was some time before his master could get him tran- 
quillized, and then only by assuring him — on a faith not very 
firm — that there was not iiie slightest danger. 

A few seconds after this had been accomplished, Zcb Stump 
leappeared in the doorway, with a countenance that produced 
% pleasant change in the feelings of those inside. His con- 
Ident air and attitude proclaimed, as plainly as words could 
"hne done, that he had discovered that of which ho had gone in 
leuch — the " yarb." In his right hand he held a number of 
Ofil shaped objects of dark green colour — all of them bristling 
with sharp spines, set over the surface in equidistant clusters. 
Maorice recognized the leaves of a plant well known to him — 
the oregano cactus. 

•* Don't be skeeart, Mister Pheelum ! " said the old hunter, in a 
consolatory tone, as he stepped across the threshold. '* Thur's 
oothin* to fear now. I hev got the bolsum as *11 draw the bumin' 
out o' yur blood, quicker 'an flame ud scorch a feather. Stop 
jFTir yellm*, man ! xe've rousted every bird an' beast, an* creepin' 
tinng too, I reckon, out o' thar slumbers, for more an' twenty 
mile np an' down the crik. Ef you go on at that grist much 
longer, ye'U bring the Kumanchccs out o* thur mountains, an' 
that 'nd be wuss mayhap than the crawl o' this hunderd-legged 
critter. Mister Gerald, you git riddy a bandige, whiles I pur- 
pares the powltiss." 

Drawing his knife from its sheath, the hunter first lopped off 
the spines; and then, removing the outside skin, ho split the thick 
succulent leaves of the cactus into slices of about an eighth of 
an inch in thickness. Those he spread contiguously upon a strip 
of clean cotton stuff already prepared by the mustanger ; and 
then, -with the ability of a hunter, laid the "powltiss," as he 
termed it, along the inflamed line, which ho declared to havo 
been made by the claws of the centipede, but which in reality 
was caused by the injection of venom from its poison-charged 
mandibles, a thousand times inserted into the flesh of the 
sleeper ! 

The application of tho oregano was almost instantaneous in 
its cfTcct. Tho acrid juice of the plant, producing a counter 
poison, killed that which had been secreted by the animal ; and 



48 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

the patient, relieved from farther apprehension, and soothed bj 
the sweet confidence of security — ste)nger from reaction — soon 
fell off into a profoimd and restorative slumber. 

After searching for the centipede and failing to find it — for 
this hideous reptile, known in Mexico as the alacran, unlike the 
rattlesnake, has no fear of crossing a cabriesto — ^the improvised 
physician strode silently out of the cabin ; and, once more com- 
mitting himself to his grassy couch, slept undisturbed till the 
morning. 

• ••##• 

At the earliest hour of daybreak all three were astir — Phelim 
having recovered both from his fright and his fever. Having 
made their matutinal meal upon the debris of the roast turkey, 
they hastened to take their departure fr^m the hut. The quon- 
dam stable-boy of Ballyballagh, assisted by the Texan hunter, 
prepared the wild steeds for transport across the plains — ^by 
stringing them securely together — ^while Maurice looked after 
his own horse and the spotted mare. More especially did he 
expend his time upon the beautifal captive— careftdly combing 
out her mane and tail, and removing from her glossy coat the 
stains that told of the severe chase she had cost him before her 
proud neck yielded to the constraint of his lazo. 

" Dum it, man ! " exclaimed Zeb, as, with some surprise, he 
stood watching the movements of the mustanger, " ye needn't 
ha' been hef so purticklcr ! Wudley Peintdexter ain't the man 
as '11 go back from a barg'in. Ye'll git the two hunderd dollars, 
sure as my name air Zeb'lun Stump ; an' dog-gone my cats, ef 
the maar ain't worth every red cent o' the money ! " 

Maurice heard the remarks without making reply ; but the 
half suppressed smile playing around his lips told that the Ken- 
tuckian had altogether misconstrued the motive for his assiduous 
grooming. 

In less than an hour after, the mustanger was on the march, 
mounted on his blood-bay, and leading the spotted mare at the 
end of his lazo ; while the captive cavallada, under the guidance 
of the Galwegian groom, went trooping at a brisk pace over the 
plain. 

Zeb Stump, astride his " ole maar," could only keep up by a 
constant hammering with his heels ; and Tara, picking his stq>s 
through the spinous mezquite grass, trotted listlessly in the 
rear. 

The hut, .with its skin-door closed against animal intruders, 
was left to take care of itself ; its silent solitude, for a time, to 
be disturbed only by the hooting of the homed owl, the scream 
of the cougar, or the howl-bark of the hungering coyote?. 



49 
CHAPTER IX. 

THE FRONTIER FORT. 

The " Btar-roanglod banner " suspended above Fort Inge, as 
it floatd forth from its tall staff, flings its fitful shadow over a 
ficcne of strange and original interest. 

It is a pictore of pure frontier life — which ])crhaps only the 
pencil of tbe TOunger Vemet could tnitlifuUy portray — half 
militaiyy half civilian — half savsui^e, half civilized — mottled with 
fignres of men whose complexions, costumes, and callings, pro- 
daim theim appertaining to the extremes of both, and every pos- 
sible litradation between. 

£Ten themMC'eTi'Scene — the Fort itself — is of this miscegenoiis 
diaracter. That star-spangled banner waves not over bastions 
sad battlements ; it flings no shadow over casemate or covered 
wsy, fosse, scarpment, or glacis — scarce anything that appertains 
to a fortress. A mde stockade, constructed out of trunks of 
dgmrobia^ enclosing shed-stabling for two Inmdred horses ; 
outside this a half-score of buildings of the plainest architectural 
stylo — some of them mere huts of " wattle and daub " — -jacalcs — 
the bigfi^t a barrack ; behind it the hospital, the stores of the 
cofininissary, and quartermaster ; on one side the guard- 
boaae ; and on the other, more pretentiously placed, the mess- 
room and officers' quai^ters ; all plain in their appearance — 
plafitered and whitewashed with the lime plentiiuUy found on 
the Leona — all neat and clean, as becomes a cantonment of 
troops wearing the imiform of a great civilized nation. Such is 
Fort Inge. 

At a short distance ofl* another group of houses meets the 
ejre — nearly, if not quite, as imposing as the cluster above de- 
scribed bearing the name of " The Fort.'* They are just outside 
the shadow of the flag, though under its ]jrotectiori — for to it 
are they indebted for their origin and existence. They are the 
germ of tlie village that universally springs up in the proximity 
of an American military post — in all probability, and at no veiy 
remote period, to become a town — perhaps a great city. 

At present their occupants are a sutler, whose store contains 
" knick-knacks " not classed among commissariat rations ; an 
hotel-keeper whose bar-room, with white sanded floor and shelves 
sparkling with prismatic glass, tempts the idler to step in ; a 
brace of gamblers whose rival tables of faro and monte exti*jicfc 
from the pockets of the soldiers most part of their pay ; a score 
of dark-eyed seiioritas of questionable reputation ; a like number 
of hunters, teamsters, mimtangers^ and nondescripts — such as 
constitute in all countries the hangers-on of a military canton- 
ment, or the followers of a cam]). 
The houses in the occupancy of this motley corporation have 

D 



50 Tin: UEADLESS ITOHSKMAX. 

been " sited " witli some tlesign. Perhaps they are the property 
of a single speculator. They stand around a" "square," where, 
instead of lamp-posts or statues, may be seen the decaying trunk 
of a cypress, or the bushy form of ahaekberry, rising out of a tapit 
of trodden grass. 

The Leona — at this point a mere rivulet — glides past in the 
rear both of fort and \nllage. To the front extends a level plain, 
green as verdure can make it-^in the distance darkened hy a 
bordering of woods, in which post-oaks and pecans, live oaks and 
elms, strugp^le for existence with spinous plants of cactus and 
anona ; with scores of creepers, climbers, and parasites almost 
unknown to the botanist. To the south and east along the banks 
of the stream, you see scattered houses : the homesteads of 
plantations ; some of them rude and of recent construction, with 
a few of more j)retcntious style, and evidently of older origin. 
One of these last particularly attracts the attention : a structure 
of superior size — with flat roof, surmounted by a crenelled 
parapet — whose white walls show conspicuously against the 
green background of forest with which it is half encircled. It 
is the hacienda of Casa del Corvo. 

Turning your eye northward, you behold a curious isolated 
eminence — a gigantic ctmc of rocks — rising several hundred feet 
above the level (»f the plain ; and Iwyond, in dim distance, a 
waving horizontal line indicating the outlines of the Guadalupe 
mountains — the outshmding spurs of that ekmited and almost 
untrodden plateau, the Llano Estacado. 

Look aloft! Y(»u behold a sky, half sapphire, half turquoise ; 
by day, showing no other spot than the orb of its golden god ; 
by night, studded with stars that appear clipped from clear 
steel, and a moon whose well-defined disc outshines the cfiTul- 
gence of silver. 

Look below — at that hour when moon and stars have dis- 
appeared, and the land-wind arrives from Matagorda Bay, laden 
with the fragrance of flowers ; when it strikes the starry flag, 
unfolding it to the eye of the morn — then look below, and 
behold the picture that should have Ixjcn painted by the pencil 
of Vemet — too varied and vivid, too plentiful in shapes, 
costumes, and colouring, to be sketched by the pen. 

In the tableau you distinguish soldiers in uniform — the b'ght 
blue of the United States infantrj-, the darker cloth of the 
dragoons, and the almost invisible green of the mounted rifle- 
men. 

You will see but few in full uniform — only the officer of the 
day, the captain of the guard, and the guard itself. 

Their comrades off duty lounge about the barracks, or within 
the stockade enclosure, in red flannel shirts, slouch hats, and 
boots innocent of blacking. 

They mingle with men whose costumes make no pretence to 
a military character : tall hunters in tunics of dressed deerskin, 



THE FBONTIES FORT. 51 

with leggings to correspond — herdsmen and mnstangcrs, habited 
i la Mexicame — ^Mexicans themselves, in wide calzoneros, serapSs 
on their shonlders, hoias on their legs, huge spurs upon their 
heels, and glazed sombreros set jauntily on their crowns. They 
palaver with Indians on a friendly visit to the Fort, for trade or 
treaty ; whose tents stand at some distance, and from whose 
shoulders hang blankets of red, and green, and blue — giving them 
a picturesque, even classical, appearance, in spite of the hideous 
paint with which they have bedaubed their skins, and the dirt 
that renders sticky their long black hair, lengthened by tresses 
taken from the tfuls of their horses. 

Picture to the eye of your imagination this jumble of mixed 
nationalities — in their varied costumes of race, condition, and 
calling ; jot in here and there a black-skinned scion of Ethiopia, 
the body servant of some officer, or the emissary of a planter 
from the adjacent settlements ; imagine them standing in 
gosiping groups, or stalking over the level plain, amidst some 
hslMozen halted waggons ; a couple of six-pounclci's upon their 
camages, with caissons close by ; a square tent or two, with 
itB SDrmouuting fly — occupied by some eccentric officer who 
prefers sleeping under canvas; a stack of bayoneted rifles 
bdonging to the soldiers on guard, — imagine all these com- 
ponent parts, and you will have before your mind's eye a truth- 
ful picture of a military fort upon the frontier of Texas, and the 

extreme selvedge of civilization. 

• • • « « « 

About a week after the arrival of tlie Louisiana planter at 
his new home, three officers were seen standing upon the parade 
ground in front of Fort Inge, with their eyes tuniod towards 
the hacienda of Casa del Coi*vo. 

They were all young men : the oldest not over thirty years of 
age. His shoulder-straps with the double bar proclaimed him a 
captain ; the second, -^vith a single cross bar, was a first lieutenant; 
while the youngest of the two, with an empty chevron, was 
either a second lieutenant or "brevet." 

They were off* duiy ; engaged in conversation — their theme, 
the " new people " in Casa del Corvo^-by which was meant the 
Louisiana planter and his family. 

" A sort of housewamiing it's to be," said the inftintry captain, 
alluding to an invitation that had reached the Fort, extending to 
all the commissioned officers of the s^arrison. ** Dinner first, 
and dancing afterwards — a regular field day, where I 8upi)()so 
we shall see paraded the aristocracy and beauty of fhe settle- 
ment." 

"Aristocracy? '* laughingly rejoined the lieutenant of dragoons. 
*'Not much of that here, I fancy ; and of beauty still less." 

" You mistake, Ilaneock. There are both upon the banks of 
the Leona. Some good States families have strayed out tliis 
way. "We'll meet them at Poindexter's party, no doubt. On the 

D 2 



52 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

qnestion of aristocracy, the host himself, if you'll pardon a poor 
joke, is himself a host. He has enough of it to inoculate all 
the company that may be present ; and as for beauty, I'll back 
his dau^ter against anything this side the Sabine. The com- 
missary's niece will be no longer belle about here." 

" Oh, indeed ! " drawled the lieutenant of rifles, in a tone that 
told of his being chafed by this representation. " Miss Poin- 
dexter must be deuced good-looking, then." 

" She's all that, I tell you, if she be anything like what she 
was when I last saw her, which was at a Bayou Lafourche ball. 
There were half a dozen young Creoles there, who came nigh 
crossing swords about her." 

" A coquette, I suppose ? " insinuated the rifleman. 

"Nothing of the kind, Grossman. Quit« the contrary, I 
assure you. She's a girl of spirit, though — likely enough to 
snub any fellow who might try to 1x3 too familiar. She's not 
without some of the father's pride. It's a family trait of th& 
Poindexters." 

** Just the girl I should cotton to," jocosely remarked the 
young dragoon. " And if she's as good-looking as you say, 
Captain Sloman, I shall certainly go in for her. Unlike Cross- 
man here, I'm clear of all entanglements of the heart. Thank 
the Lord for it ! " 

" Well, Mr. Hancock," rejoined the infantrj' officer, a gentle- 
man of sober inclinings, " I'm not given to betting ; but I'd lay 
a big wager you won't say that, after you have seen Louise 
Poindexter — that is, if you speak your mind." 

" Pshaw, Sloman ! don't you be alarmed about me. I've been 
too often under the fire of bright eyes to have any fear of 
them." 

" None so bright as hers." 

" Deuce take it ! you make a follow fall in love with this lady 
without having set eyes upon her. She must be something 
extraordinary — ^incomparable. ' ' 

" She was both, when I last saw her." 

" How long ago was that ? " 

" The Lafourche ball ? * Let me see — about eighteen months. 
Just after we got back from Mexico. She was then ' coming 
out ' as society styles it : 

" A new star in the firmament, to light and glory bom ! ** 

" Eighteen months is a long time," sagely remarked Crossman 
— " a long time for an immarried maiden — especially among 
Creoles, where they often get spliced at twelve, instead of * sweet 
sixteen.' Her beauty may have lost some of ita bloom ? " 

" I believe not a bit. I should have called to see ; only I knew 
they were in the middle of their * plenishing,* and mightn't 
desire to be visited. But the major has been to Casa del Corvo, 
and brought back such a report about Miss Poindexter's beauty 



THE FBONTI£B FOBT. 53 

as almost got him into a scrape with the lady commanding the 
post." 

" Upon my soul. Captain Sloman ! ** asseverated the lieutenant 
of dragoons, " you've excited my curiosity to such a degree, I 
feel already half in love with Louise Poindexter ! " 

" Before you get altogether into it," rejoined the officer of 
infimtry, in a serious tone, " let me recommend a little caution. 
There's a lite noir in the background." 

*' A brother, I suppose ? That is the individual usually so- 
r^arded." 

'* There is a brother, but it's not he. A free noble young fellow 
he is — the only Poindexter I ever knew not eaten up with pride. 
He's quite the reverse." 

** The aristocratic father, then ? Surely he wouldn't object to- 
a quartering with the Hancocks ? " 

"I'm not so sure of that; seeing that the Hancocks are 
Yankees, and he's a chivalric Southerner! But it*s not old 
Poi ndex ter I mean." 

"Who, then, is the black beast, or what is it — if not a- 
hrnnan ? " 

** It is human, after a fashion. A male cousin — a queer card 
he is — by name Cassius Calhoun." 

" I thmk I've heard the name." 

" So have I," said the lieutenant of rifles. 

" So has almost everybody who had anvthing to do with the 
Mexican war — that is, who took part in Scott's campaign. He 
iigured there extensively, and not very creditably either. Ho 
was captain in a volunteer regiment of Mississippians — for he 
hails from that State ; but he was ofbener nici with at the 
manie'tB,hle than in the quarters of his regiment. He had one 
or two affairs, that gave him the reputation of a bully. But 
that notoriety was not of Mexican- war origin. He had earned it 
before going there ; and was well known among the desperadoes 
of New Orleans as a dangerous many 

"What of all that?" asked the young dragoon, in a tone 
slightly savouring of defiance. " Who cares whether Mr. 
Cassius Calhoun be a dangerous man, or a harmless one ? Not 
I. He's only the girl's cousin, you say ? " 

*' Something more, perhaps. I have reason to think bo's her 
lover." 

" Accepted, do you suppose ? "" 

" That I can't tell. I only know, or suspect, that he's the 
favourite of the father. I have heard reasons why; given only in 
whispers, it is true, but too probable to be scouted. The old story 
— influence springing from mortgage money. Poindexter's not so 
rich as he has been — else we'd never have seen him out here." 

" If the lady l>e as attractive as you say, I suppose we'll liave 
Captain Cassius out here also, before long ? " 

" Before long ! Is that all you know about it ? He is here ; 

D 3 



u 



THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAN. 



came along with the family, and is now residing with them. 
Some say he*s a partner in the planting speculation. I saw him 
this very morning — down in the hotel baivroom — * liquoring np,' 
and swaggering in his old way." 

"A swarthy-com])lexioned man, of about thirty, with dark 
hair and moustaches ; wearing a blue cloth frock, half military 
cut, and a Colt's revolver strapped over his thigh ? " 

" Aye, and a bowie knife, if you had looked for it, under the 
breast of his coat. That's the man." 

"Hc*s rather a formidable-looking fellow," remarked the 
young rifleman. " If a bully, his looks don't belie him." 

" D — n hLs looks ! " half angrily exclaimed the dragoon. "We 
don't hold commissions in Uncle Sam's army to bo scared by 
looks, nor bullies either. If he comes any of his bullying over 
me, he'll find I'm as quick with a trigger as he." 

At that moment the bugle brayed out the call for morning 
parade — a ceremony observed at the little frontier fort as regu- 
larly as if a whole corps-d' armee had been present — and the 
three officers separating, betook themselves to their quarters to 
prepare their several companies for the inspection of the major 
in command of the cantonment. 



CHAPTER X. 

CASA DEL COKVO. 

The estate, or " hacienda," known as Ca.sadel Corvo, extended 
along the wooded bottom of the Leona River for more than a 
league, and twice that distance southwards across the con- 
tiguous prairie. 

The house itself — usually, though not correctly, styled the 
hacienda — stood within long cannon range of Fort Inge ; from 
which its wliite walls were partially "visible; the remaining 
portion being shadowed by tall forest trees tliat skirted the 
banks of the stream. 

Its site was peculiar, and no doubt chosen with a view to 
defence : for its foundations had been laid at a time when 
Indian assailants might be expected ; as indeed they might be, 
and often are, at the present hour. 

There was a curve of the river closing upon itself, like the shoe 
of a racehorse, or the arc of a circle, three parts complete ; 
the chord of which, or a parallelogram traced upon it, might 
be taken as the ground-plan of the dwelling. Hence the name 
— Casa del Con-o — " the House of the Curve " (curved river). 

The facade, or entrance side, fronted towards the prairie — the 
latter forming a noble lawn that extended to the edge of the 
horizon — in comparison with which an imperial park would 
have shrunk into the dimensions of a paddock. 



CA8A DEL COETO. 55 

The architecture of Casa del Corvo, like that of other large 
oonntry mansions in Mexico, was of a style that nught be 
termed Morisco-Mexican : being a single story in height, with 
a flat roof — azotea — sponted and parapeted all round ; having a 
courtyaard inside the walls, termed patioy open to the sky, with a 
flagged floor, a fountain, and a stone stairway leading up Uy 
the roof; a grand entrance gateway — the sagitan — with a mas- 
sive wooden door, thickly studded with bolt- heads ; and two or 
three windows on each side, defended by a grille of strong iron 
bars, called reja. These are the chief characteristics of a 
Mexican hacienda ; and Casa del Cor\''o differed but little from 
the type almost universal throughout the vast territories of 
Spanish America. 

Sach was the homestead that adorned the newly acquired 
estate of the Louisiana planter — that had become his property 
1^ purchase. 

As yet no change had taken place in the exterior of the 
dwdlin^; nor much in its interior, if we except the personnel of 
it» occajmnts. A physiognomy, half Anglo-Saxon, half Franco- 
Americ-an, presented itself in courtyard and corridor, where 
formerly were seen only faces of pure Spanish t^-pe ; and 
instead of the rich sonorous language of Andalusia, was now 
heard the harsher guttural of a semi-Teutonic tongue — occasion- 
ally diversified by the sweeter accentuation of Creolian French. 

Outside the walls of the mansion — in the village-like cluster. 
of yncca-thatched huts which formerly gave housing to tho 
peonf and other dependants of the hacienda — the transformation 
was more striking. Where the tall thin vaquerOy in broad- 
brimmed hat of black glaze, and chequered serapi, strode 
proudly over the SMvard — his spurs tuikling at ever}- step— was 
now met the authoritative "overseer," in blue jersey, or 
blanket coat — ^his whip cracking at every comer; where the 
red children of Azteca and Anahuac, scantily clad in tanned 
sheepskin, could be seen, with sad solemn aspect, lounging 
listlessly by their jacales, or trotting silently along, were now 
heard the black sons and daughters of Ethiopia, from mom till 
night chattering their gay " gumbo," or with song and dance 
seemingly contradicting the idea : that slavery is a heritage of 
unhappiness ! 

Was it a change for the better upon tho estate of Casa del 
Corvo ? 

ITiere was a time when the peoj)le of Enpfland would have 
answered — no ; with a unanimity and cinpliasis calculated to 
drown all disbelief in their sincerity. 

Alas, for human weakness and hypocrisy ! Our long cherished 
sympathy with the slave proves to have been only a tissue 
of sheer dissembling. Led by an oligarchy — not tho tnie 
aristocracy of our countrj': for these are too noble to have 
yielded to such deep designing — but an oligarchy composed of 



56 TUB HEADLESS HOBSEMAK. 

conspiring plebs, who have smuggled themselves into the first 
places of power in all the four estates — guided by these 
prurient conspirators against the people's rights — England 
has proved natrue to her creed so loudly proclaimed — ^truculent 
to the trust reposed in her by the universal acclaim of the 
nations. 

• ••••• 

On a theme altogether different dwelt the thoughts of Louise 
Poindextcr, as she flung herself into a chair in fi^nt of her 
dressing-glass, and directed her maid Florinda to prepare her 
for the reception of guests — expected soon to arrive at the 
hacienda. 

It was the day fixed for the "house-warming," and aboiit> 
an hour before the time appointed for dinner to be on the 
table. This might have explained a certain restlessness 
observable in the air of the young Creole — especially observed 
by Florinda ; but it did not. The maid had her own thoughts 
about the cause of her mistress's disquietude — as was proved by 
the conversation that ensued between them. 

Scarce could it be called a conversation. It was more as if 
the young lady were thinking aloud, -^vith lier attendant acting* 
as an echo. During all her life, the Creole had been accustomed 
to look upon her sable handmaid as a thing from whom it was 
not worth while concealing her thoughts, any more than she 
would from the chairs, the table, the sofa, or any other article 
of ftimituro in the apartment. There was but the difference of 
Florinda being a little more animated and companionable, and 
the advantage of her being able to give a vocal response to the 
observations addressed to her. 

For the first ten minutes after entering the chamber, Florinda 
had sustained the brunt of the dialogue on indifferent topics — 
her mistress only interfering with an occasional ejaculation. 

" Oh, Miss Looey ! " pursued the negress, as her fingers fondly 
played among the lustrous tresses of her young mistress's hair^ 
"how bewfiU you hair am! Like de long 'Panish moss dat 
hang from de cyprus-tree ; only dat it am ob a different colour, 
an' shine like the sugar-house 'lasses." 

As already stated, Louise Poindextcr was a Creole. After 
that, it is scarce necessary to say that her hair was of a dark 
colour ; and — as the sable maid in rude speech had expressed it 
— luxuriant as Spanish moss. It was not black ; but of a ricb 
glowing brown — such as may be observed in the tinting of 
a tortoise-shell, or the coat of a winter-trapped sable. 

" Ah ! " continued Florinda, spreading out an immense 
" hank " of the hair, that glistened like a chestnut against her 
dark palm, " if I had dat lubbly hair on ma head, in'tead ob 
dis cuss'd cully wool, I fetch em all to ma feet — ebbry one ob 
dem." 

" What do you mean, girl ? " inquired the young lady, as if 



XUSA DEL GORVO. 57 

just aronsed from some dreamy reverie. " What's that you've 
been saying ? Fetch them to your feet ? Fetch whom ? " 

" Na^ now ; you know what dis chile mean ? " 

" 'Pen honour, I do not." 

" Make em lub me. Dat's what I should hab say." 

"But whom?" 

**A11 de white gen'l'm. De young planter, do officer ob 
de Fort — all ob dem. Wif you hair, Miss Looey, I could dem 
^ make conquess." 

** Ha — ^ha — ^ha ! " laughed the young lady, amused at the idea 
of Florinda figuring under that magnificent chevelure. " You 
think, with my hair upon your head, you would bo invincible 
amon^ the men ? " 

"No, missa — not you nair alone — ^but wif you sweet face — 
yon skin, white as do alumbaster — you tall figga — you grand 
look. Oh, Miss Looey, you am so 'plendidly bewful ! I hear do 
white genTm say so. I no need hear em say it. I see dat for 
mwef." 

"You're learning to flatter, Florinda." 

" No, 'deed, missa — ne'er a word ob flattery — ne'er a word, I 
swtk it. By de 'postles, I swa it." 

To one who looked upon her mistress, the earnest asseveration 
of the maid was not necessary to prove the sincerity of her 
speech, however hyperbolical it might appear. To say that 
Louise Poindexter was beautiful, would only be to repeat the 
universal verdict of the society that surrounded her. A single 
glance was sufficient to satisfy any one upon this point — strangers 
as well as acquaintances. It was a kind of beauty that needed 
no discovering — and yet it is difficult to describe it. The pen 
cannot portray such a face. Even the pencil could convey but 
a faint idea of it : for no painter, however skilled, could represent 
upon cold canvas the glowing ethereal light that emanated from 
her eyes, and appeared to radiate over her countenance. Her 
features wore purely classic : resembling those types of female 
beauty chosen by Pliidias or Praxiteles. And yet in all the 
Grecian Pantheon there is no face to which it could have been 
likened : for it was not tlie countenance of a goddess; but, some- 
thing more attractive to the eye of man, the face of a woman. 

A suspicion of sensuality, apparent in the voluptuous curving 
of the lower lip — still more pronounced in the prominent 
rounding beneath the checks — ^^'liile depriving the countenance 
of its pure spiritualism, did not perhaps detract from its beauty. 
There are men, who, in this departure from the divine type, 
would have perceived a superior charm : since in Louise Poin- 
dexter they would have seen not a divinity to be worshipped, 
but a woman to be loved. 

Her only reply vouchsafed to Florinda's earnest asseveration 
was a laugh — careless, though not incredulous. The young Creole 
did not need to be reminded of her beauty. She was not un- 



56 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

conscioiis of it : as conld be told by her taking more than one 
long look into the mirror before which her toilet was being made. 
The flattery of the negress scarce called up an emotion; cer- 
tainly not more than she might have felt at the fawning of a pet 
spaniel ; and she soon after surrendered herself to the reverie 
from which the speech had aroused her. 

Florinda was not silenced by observing her mistress's air of 
abstraction. The girl had evidently something on her mind — 
some mystery, of which she desired the kclaircissement — and 
was determined to have it. 

" Ah ! " she continued, as if talking to herself; "if Florinda 
had half de charm ob young missa, she for nobody care — she 
for nobody heave de deep sigh ! " 

"Sigh!" repeated her mistress, suddenly startled by the 
speech. " What do you mean by that ? " 

" Pa' dieu. Miss Looey, Florinda no so blind you tink ; nor 
so deaf neider. She you see long time sit in de same place ; 
you nebber 'peak no word — ^you only heave de sigh — de long 
deep sigh. You nebba do dat in de ole plantashun in Loozy- 
anny." 

" Florinda ! I fear you are taking leave of your senses, or have 
left them behind you in Louisiana ? Perhaps there's something 
in the climate here that affecte you. Is that so, girl ? " 

*' Pa' dieu, Miss Looey, dat question ob youself ask. You 
no be angry case I 'peak so plain. Florinda you slave — she you 
lub like brack sisser. She no happy hear you sigh. Dat why 
she hab take do freedom. You no be angry wif me ? " 

" Certainly not. Why should I be angry with you, child ? 
Pm not. I didn't say I was ; only you are quite mistaken in 
your ideas. WTiat you've seen, or heard, could be only a fancy 
of your own. As for sighing, heigho ! I have something else 
to think of just now. I have to entertain about a hundred 
guests — nearly all strangers, too; among them the young plan- 
ters and officers whom you would entangle if you had my hair. 
Ha ! ha ! ha ! I don't desire to enmesh them — not one of them ! 
So twist it up as you like — ^without the semblance of a snare 
in it." 

" Oh ! Miss Looey, you so 'peak ? " inquired the negress with 
an air of evident interest. " You say none ob dem gen*rm you 
care for? Dere am two, tree, berry, berry, berry han'som'. 
One planter dar be, and two ob de officer — all young gen'l'm. 
You know de tree I mean. All ob dem hab been 'tentive to 
you. You sure, missa, tain't one ob dem dat you make sigh ? " 
" Sigh again ! Ha ! ha ! ha ! But come, Florinda, we're losing 
time. Recollect I've got to be in the drawing-room to receive 
a hundred guests. I must have at least half an hour to compose 
myself into an attitude befitting such an extensive reception." 

" No fear. Miss Looey — no fear. I you toilette make in time 
— aplenty ob time. No much trouble you dress. Pa' dieu, in any 



CAFA PEL CORVO. 59 

dress you look 'plondld. You be de belle it* you ib*es3 like one 
ob de tier hand ob de plantashun/' 

** What a flatterer you are grown, Florinda I I shall begin to 
suspect that yon are after some favour. Do you \visli me to in- 
tercede, and make up your quarrel with Pluto ? '* 

** No, missa. I be friend nebber more wid Pluto. He show 
hisaeff such great coward when come dat storm on de brack 
prairee. Ah, Miss Looey ! what we boaf do if dat young white 
genl'm on de red boss no come ridin* dat way ? " 

*' If he had not, cher Florinde, it is highly probable neither 
of ns should now have been here.'* 

•* Oh, missa ! wasn't he real fancy man, ilat 'ere ? You see 
him bewftd lace. You see him thick hair, jess de colour ob 
yon own — only curled leetle bit like mine. Talk ob de young 
planter, or dem officer at de Fort! De brack folk say he no 
good for nuffin, like dem — he only i)Oor white trash. Wlio care 
&* dat? He am de sort ob man could dis chile make sigh. 
Ah ! de berry, beny sort ! " 

Up to this point the young Creole liad preser\'ed a certain 
inuiqaillity of countenance. She tried to continue it ; but the 
effort failed her. Whether by accident or design, Florinda had 
toucb(»d the most sensitive chord in the spirit of her mistress. 

She would have been loth to confess it, even to her slave ; and 
it was a relief to her, when loud voices heard in the courtyard 
gave a colourable excuse for terminating her toilette, along 
with the delicate dialogue upon which she might have been con- 
strained to enter. 



CHAPTER XI. 

AN UNEXPECTED ARRIVAL. 

" Say, ye dumationed nigger ! whar's }^ir master ? " 

** Mass Poindex'er, sar ? De ole massr, or de young 'un ? " 

" Young 'un be dumcd ! I mean Mister Peintdexter. Who 
else shed 1 ? Wliar air he ? " 

" Ho — ho ! sar ! dey am boaf at home — dat is, dey am boaf 
away from de house — de ole massr an' de young Massr Hcniy. 
Dey am down de ribber, wha de folk am makin' de new fence. 
Ho ! ho ! you find em dar." 

" Do>vn the river ! How fur d'ye reck'n ? " 

" Ho ! ho ! sar. Dis nigga reck'ii it be 'bout tree or four 
mile — dat at de berry leas'." 

'' Three or four mile ? Ye must be a dumationed fool, nigger. 
Mister Peintdexter' s plantation don't go thet fur ; an I reck'n 
he ain't the man to be makin' a fence on some'dy else's clarin*. 



60 THE. HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

Tjookeo h}Tir ! What time air he expected hum ? Ye'vc got a 
straighter idee o' thet, I hope ? *' 

" Dey boat* *pectcd home berry soon, de young massr and de 
olo massr, and Mass Ca'houn too. Ho ! ho ! dar's agwine to 
be big dooin's 'bout dis yar slianty — ^yer see dat fo' yeseff by de 
smell ob de kitchen. Ho ! ho ! All sorts o' gran' feassin' — de 
roas' an' de bile, an' de barbecue ; do pot-pies, an' de chicken 
fixins. Ho ! ho ! ain't thar agwine to go it hyar jess like de 
ole times on de coass ob de Massippy! Hoora lb' ole Mass 
Poindex'er ! He do right sort. Ho ! ho ! 'tranger ! why you 
no holla too : you no finend ob de massr ? " 

" Dum you, nigger, don't ye remember me ? Now I look into 
yur ugly mug, I recollex you." 

" Gorramiglity ! 'tain't Mass 'Tump — 'tuse to fetch de ven'son 
an' de turkey gobbla to de olo plantashun ? By de jumbo, it am, 
tho'. Law, Mas8 'Tump, dis nigga 'members you like it wa de 
day afore yesscrday. Ise heem you called do odder day ; but I 
war away from 'bout de place. I'm de coachman now-^-dribes de 
carriage dat carries de lady ob do 'tablishmcnt — de bewful Missy 
Loo. Lor, massr, she berry fine gal. Dey do say she beat 
Horinday into fits. Nebba mind. Mass 'Tump, you better wait 
till ole massr come home. He am a hound fo be hya, in do 
shortess poss'ble time." 

*' Wal, if thet's so, I'll wait upon him," rejoined the hunter, 
leisurely lifting his log over tho saddle — in which up to this 
time ho had retained his seat. " Now, ole fellur," he added, 
passing the bridle into the hands of the negro, *' you gi'e the 
maar half a dozen yeers o' com out o' the crib. I've rid the 
critter better 'n a score o' miles like a streak o' lightnin' — all to 
do yur master a sai'vice." 

" Oh, Mr. Zebulon Stump, is it you ? " exclaimed a silvery 
voice, followed by the appearance of Louise Poindexter upon 
the verandah. 

" I thought it was," continued the young lady, coming up 
to the railings, "though I didn't expect to see you so soon. 
You said you were going upon a long journey. Well — I am 
pleased that you are here ; and so will papa and Henry be. Pluto ! 
go instantly to Chloe, tlie cook, and see what she can give you 
for Mr. Stump's dinner. You have not dined, I know. You 
are dusty — you've been travelling ? Here, Florinda ! Haste you 
to the sideboard, and pour out some drink. Mr. Stump will bo 
thirsty, I'm sure, this hot day. What would you prefer — ^port, 
sherr}', claret ? Ah, now, if I recollect, you used to be partial to 
Monongahela whisky. I think there is some. Florinda, see if 
there be ! Step into the verandah, dear Mr. Stump, and take a 
seat. You were inquiring for papa ? I expect him home every 
minute. I shall try to entertain you till he come." 

Had the young lady paused sooner in her speech, sho would 
not have received an immediate reply. Even as it was, some 



AK UHEXPECTED ABBIYAL. 61 

seconds elapsed before Zeb made rejoinder. He stood gazing 
upon her, as if struck speechless by the sheer intensity of his 
admiration. 

*' Lord o* marcy, Miss Le\v'aze ! *' he at length gasped forth, 
**" I thort when I nsed to see you on the Massissippi, ye war the 
pattiest critter on the airth ; but now, I think ye the pattiest 
thinff eyther on airth or in hewing. Gcehosofat I " 

The old hnnter's praise was scarce exaggerated. Fresh from 
ihe toilette, the gloss of her luxuriant hair untarnished by the 
action of the atmosphere ; her cheeks glowing with a camiino tint^ 
produced by the application of cold water ; her fine figure, grace- 
Inlly draped in a robe of India muslin — white and semi-trans- 
lacent — certainly did Louise Poindextcr appear as pretty as 
anything upon earth — if not in heaven. 

** Geenosofat ! " again exclaimed the hunter, following up his 
complimentary speech, " I hev in my time seed what I thort 
WIT some putty critters o' the shecmale kind — my ole 'ooraan 
herself wam't so bad-lookin' when I fast kim acrost her in 
Ksintnck — thet she wam't. But I will say this, Miss Lewaze : 
efthe puttiest bits o' all o* them war clipped out an* then jeined 
tbegither agin, they wudn't make up the thousanth part o' a 
angel sech as you." 

" Oh — oh — oh ! Mr. Stump — Mr. Stump ! I*m astonished to 
hear you talk in this manner. Texas has quite turned you into 
a courtier. If you go on so, I fear you will lose your character 
for plain speaking ! After that I am sure you will stand in 
need of a very big drink. Haste, Florinda ! I think you said 
yon would prefer whisky ? *' 

" Ef I didn't say it, I thunk it ; an* that air about the same. 
Yur right, miss, I prefar the com afore any o* them thur farrin 
lickers ; an' I sticks to it whiiriver I kin git it. Texas hain't 
made no altorashun in me in the matter o' lickerin'." 

** Mass 'Tump, you it hab mix wif water ? " inquired 
Florinda, coming forward with a tumbler about one-half full of 
** Monongahela." 

" No, gurl. Dum yur water ! I hev hed enuf o* thet since I 
started this momin*. I hain*t hed a taste o' licker the 1ml day 
— iie*er as much as the smell o' it.'* 

" Dear Mr. Stump ! surely you can't drink it that way? Wliy, 
it will bum your throat I Have a little sugar, or honey, along 
with it ? '* 

" Spoil it, miss. It air sweet enuf *ithout that sort o' docterin' ; 
■specially arter you hev looked inter the glass. YaW see ef I 
can't drink it. Hyar goes t,o try! " 

The old hunter raised the tumbler to his chin; and after 
*rfving three gulps, and the fraction of a fourth, returned it 
empty into the hands of Florinda. A loud smacking of the lips 
almost drmvned the simultaneous exclamations of astonishment 
uttered by the young lady and her maid. 



62 TUE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

** Bum my throat, ye say ? Ne'er a bit. It hez jest eiled thet 
ere jugewlar, an* put it in order for a bit 'o a psdaver I wants 
to hev wi* yur father — *bout thet ere spotty mow-stang." 

" Oh, true ! I had forgotten. No, I hxidn't either ; but I did 
not suppose you had time to have news of it. Have you heard 
anything of the pretty creature ? " 

" Putty critter ye may well pcmounce it. It ur all o' thet. 
Besides, it ur a maar." 

" A ma-a-r ! What is that, Mr. Stump ? I don't understand." 

" A maar I sayed. Shurly ye know what a maar is ? *' 

" Ma-a-r — ma-a-r ! Why, no, not exactly. Is it a Mexican 
word ? Mar in Spanish signifies the sea." 

" In coorse it air a Mexikin maar — all mowstangs air. They 
air all on *em o* a breed as wur oncest brought over from some 
£u-r6pean country by the fust o' them as settled in these hyur 
parts — leesewise I hev heem so.*' 

" Still, Mr. Stump, I do not comprehend you. What makes 
this mustang a ma-a-r ? " 

"What makes her a maar? 'Case she ain't a hoss ; thet's 
what make it. Miss Peintdexter.** 

" Oh — now — I — I think I comprehend. But did you say you 
have heard of the animal — I mean since you left us ? " 

" Heem o' her, seed her, an' feeled her.*' 

" Indeed ! " 

*' She air grupped.** 

" Ah, caught ! what capital news ! I shall be so delighted to 
see the bcautifol thing ; and ride it too. I haven't had a horse 
worth a piece of orange-peel since I've been in Texas. Papa 
has promised to purchase this one for me at any price. But 
who is the lucky individual who accomplished the capture ? " 

" Ye mean who grupped the maar ? " 

"Yes— yes— who?*' 

" Why, in coorse it 'wur a mowstangcr." 

"A mustanger? " 

"Ye-es — an' such a one as thur ain't another on all these 
pura3rras — eyther to ride a boss, or throw a laryitt over one. Ye 
may talk about yur Mexikins ! I never seed neery Mexikin ked 
manage hoss-doin's like thai young fellur ; an* thur ain*t a drop 
o' thur pisen blood in his veins. He ur es white es I am 
myself." 

" His name ? " 

" Wal, es to the name o' his family, that I niver heem. His 
Christyun name air Maurice. He's knowed up thur 'bout the 
Fort as Maurice the mowstanger." 

The old hunter was not sufficiently observant to take note of 
the tone of eager interest in which the question had been asked, 
nor the sudden deepening of colour upon the cheeks of the 
questioner as she heard the answer. 

Neither had escaped the observation of Florinda. 



AM UNEXPECTED ARBIVIL. 63 

" La» Miss Looey ! " exclaimed tlie latter, " shoo dat dc name 
ob de brave young white gen*rm — he dat us save from being 
Kmodered on de brack prairee P " 

** G^hosofat, yes ! " resumed the hunter, relieving the young 
lady &om the necessity of making reply. '' Now I think o't, he 
told me o' thet suckumstance this very mornin', afore we started. 
He air the same. Thet*s the very fellur es hcv trapped spotty ; 
an he air toatin' the critter along at this eyedentical minnit, in 
kninp'ny wi' about a dozen others o* the same cavyurd. Ho 
ougbter be hyur afore sundown. I pusheil my ole maar ahead, 
so 's to tell yur &ther the spotty war comin', and let him git 
the fust chance o' buyin'. I know'd as how thet ere bit o* hos- 
doin's don't get druv fur into the Settlements eforo someb*dy 
snaps her up. I thort o* you^ Miss Lewaze, and how ye tuk on 
so when I tolt ye 'bout the critter. Wal, make yur mind cezy ; 
ve shell hov the fust chance. Ole Zeb Stump '11 be yur bail 
for thet.*' 

" Oh, Mr. Stump, it is so kind of you I I am very, very 
gnttefnl. You will now excuse me for a moment. Father will 
soon be back. We have a dinner-party to-day ; and I have to 
prepare for receiving a great many people. Florinda, see that 
Mr. Stump's luncheon is set out for him. Go, girl — go at once 
about it ! " 

"And, Mr. Stump," continued the young lady, drawing 
neaarer to the hunter, and speaking in a more subdued tone of 
Toice, " if the young — young gentleman should arrive while 
the other people are here — perhaps he don't know them — will 
you see that he is not neglected ? There is wine yonder, in 
the verandah, and other things. You know what I mean, dear 
Mr. Stump?" 

** Dumed if I do. Miss Lewaze ; that air, not adzackly. I Idn 
unnerstan' all thet ere 'bout the licker an' other fixins. But 
who air the young gen'leman yur speakin' o' ? Thet's the thing 
as bamboozles me." 

** Surely you know who I mean ! The young gentleman — the 
young man — who, you say, is bringing in the horses." 

" Oh ! ah ! Maurice the mowstanger ! That's it, is it ? Wal, 
I reck'n yur not a hundred mile astray in calling him a gen'leman ; 
tbo' it ain't oifen es a mowstanger gits thet entitlement, or 
desarves it eyther. ILe air one, eveiy incli o' him — a gen'le- 
man by barth, breed, an' raisin' — tho' he air a boss- hunter, 
an' Irish at thet." 

The eyes of Louise Poindcxter sparkled with delight as she 
listened to opinions so perfectly in unison with her own. 

" I must tell ye, howsomdiver," continued the hunter, as if 
some doubt had come across his mind, " it won't do to show thet 
'ere yoimg fellur any sort o' second-hand hospertality. As they 
used to say on the Massissippi, he air * as proud as a Peintdcxter.' 
Excuse me, Miss Lewaze, for lettin' the word slip. I didn't 



64 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAK. 

thiiik o't thet I war talkin' to a Peintdexter — ^not the proudest, 
but the puttiest o* the name." 

" Oh, Mr. Stump ! you can say what you please to me. You 
know that I could not be offended with you, you dear old giant ! " 

" He*d be meaner than a dwurf cs ked eyther say or do 
anythin' to offend you, miss." 

" Thanks ! thanks ! I know your honest heart — I know your 
devotion. Perhaps some time — some time, Mr. Stump" — she 
spoke hesitatingly, but apparently without any definite meaning 
— " I might stand in need of your friendship." 

" Ye won't need it long afore ye git it, then ; thet ole Zeb 
Stump kin promise ye. Miss Peintdexter. He*d be stinkiner 
than a skunk, an* a bigger coward than a coyoat, es wouldn't 
Stan' by sech as you, while there wur a bottle-full o' breath left 
in the inside o' his body." 

'* A thousand thanks — again and again ! But what were you 
going to say ? You spoke of second-hand hospitality ? " 

" I dud." 

"You meant ?" 

*' I meaned thet it 'ud be no use o' my inviting Maurice the 
mo wstanger eyther to eat or drink unner this hyur roof. Unless 
yur father do that, the young fellur '11 go 'ithout tastin'. You 
unnerstan. Miss Lewaze, he ain't one o' thet sort o' poor 
whites as kin be sent roun' to the kitchen." 

The young Creole stood for a second or two, without making 
rejoinder. She appeared to be occupied with some abstruse cal- 
culation, that engrossed the whole of her thoughts. 

"Never mind about it," she at length said, in a tone 
that told the calculation completed. ** Never mind, Mr. Stump. 
Tbw need not invite him. Only let me know when he arrives — 
unless we be at dinner, and then, of course, ho would not expect 
any one to appear. But if he should come at that time, you 
detain him — won't you? " 

" Boun' to do it, ef you bid me." 

" You will, then ; and let me know he is here. I shall ask him 
to cat." 

" Ef ye do, miss, I reck'n ye'U speil his appetite. The sight 
o' you, to say nothin' o' listenin' to your melodyus voice, ud 
cure a starvin' wolf o' bein' hungry. When I kim in hyur I 
war peckish cnuf to swaller a raw buzzart. Neow I don't care 
a dum about eatin'. I ked go 'ithout chawin' meat for a 
month." 

As this exaggerated chapter of euphemistn was responded to 
by a peal of clear ringing laughter, the young lady pointed 
to the other side of the patio ; where her maid was seen 
emerging from the " cocina," carrying a light tray — followed by 
l*luto with one of broader dimensions, more heavily weighted. 

" You great giant ! " was the reply, given in a tone of sham 
reproach ; " I won't believe you have lost your appetite, until 



TJUUNQ ▲ WILD IfABS. 65 

joa liave eaten Jack. Yonder come Pluto and Florinda. They 
bring something that will prove more cheerful company than I ; 
so I shall leave you to enjoy it. Good bye, Zeb — good bye, or, 
as the natives say here, Haaia luego I " 

Graily were these words spoken — lightly did LouiBC Poindextcr 
trip back across the covered corridor. Only after entering her 
chamber, and finding herself ehez soi-mime, aid she give way to 
a reflection of a more serious character, tliat found expression in 
words low murmured, but full of mystic meaning : — 

" It is my destiny : I feel — I know that it is ! I dare not 
meet, and yet I cannot shun it — I may not — I would not — I 



CHAPTER XII. 

TAMING A WILD MAKE. 



The pleasantest apartment in a Mexican house is that wliich 
has the roof for its floor, and the sky for its ceiling — the azotea. 
In fine weather— ever fine in that sunny clime — it is preferred 
to the drawing-room; especially after dinner, when the sun 
begins to cast rose-coloured rays upon the snow-clad summits 
i>f Orizava, Popocatepec, Toluca, and the " Twin Sister ;" when 
the rich wines of Xeres and Madeira have warmed the imagina- 
tions of Andalusia's sons and daughters — descendants of the 
Oonquistadores — who mount up to their house-tops to look 
upon a land of world-wide renown, rendered famous by tho 
heroic achievements of their ancestors. 

Then does the Mexican "cavallero," clad in embroidered 
habiliments, exhibit his splendid exterior to tho eyes of some 
senorita — at the same time puffing the smoke of his paper 
cigarito against her cheeks. Then does the dark-eyed don^ella 
fiaivonrably listen to soft whisperings ; or perhaps only pretends 
to listen, while, with heart distraught, and eye wandering away, 
she sends stealthy glances over the plain towards some distant 
hacienda — the home of him she truly loves. 

So enjoyable a fashion, as that of spending the twilight hours 
upon the housetop, could not fail to be followed by any one 
who chanced to be tho occupant of a Mexican dwelling; and 
the family of the Louisiana planter had adopted it, as a matter 
of course. 

On that same evening, after tho diuing-hall had been 
deserted, the roof, instead of the drawing-room, was chosen as 
the place of re-assemblage ; and as the sun descended towards 
the horizon, his slanting rays fell upon a throng as gay, Jis diccr- 
fnl, and perhaps as resplendent, as ever trod the azotea of 
Casa del Corvo. Moving about over its tessellated tiles, standing 
in scattered groups, or lined along the parapet with faces tamed 



66 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

towards the plain, were women as fair and men as bpave as had 
ever assembled on that samo spot — even when its ancient owner 
nsed to distribute hospitality to the hidalgoB of the land — ^the 
bluest blood in Coahuila and Texas. 

The company now collected to welcome the advent of 
Woodley Poindexter on his Texan estate, conld also boast of 
this last distinction. They were the ilite of Ae Settlements — 
not only of the Leona, but of others more distant. There were 
guests from Gonzales, from Castrovillc, and even firom San 
Antonio— old friends of the planter, who, like him, had sought 
a home in South- Western Texas, and who had ridden — some 
of them over a hundred miles — to be present at this, his first 
grand " reception." 

The planter had spared neither pains nor expense to give it 
eclat. What with the sprinkling of uniforms and epaulettes, 
supplied by the Fort — what with the brass band borrowed from 
the same convenient repository — what with the choice wines 
found in the cellars of Casa del Cor\'o, and which had formed 
part of the purchase — there could be little lacking to make 
Poindexter's party the most brilliant ever given upon the banks 
of the Leona. 

And to insure this effect, his lovely daughter Louise, late 
belle of Louisiana — the fame of whose beauty had been befor© 
her, even in Texas — acted as mistress of the ceremonies — 
moving about among the admiring guests with the smile of a 
queen, and the grace of a goddess. 

On that occasion was she the cynosure of a hundred pairs 
of eyes, the happiness of a score of hearts, and perhaps the 
torture of as many more : for not all were blessed who beheld 
her beauty. 

Was she herself happy ? 

The interrogatory may appear singular — almost absurd. 
Surrounded by friends— admirers — one, at least, who adored 
her — a dozen whose incipient love could but end in adoration — 
young planters, lawyers, embryo statesmen, and some with 
reputation already achieved — sons of Mars in armour, or with 
armour late laid aside — how could she be othenvise than proudly, 
supremely happy ? 

A stranger might have asked the question ; one superficially 
acquainted with Creole character — more especially the character 
of the lady in question. 

But mingling in that splendid throng was a man who was no 
stranger to either ; and who, perhaps, more than any one 
present, watched her every movement ; and endeavoured more 
than any other to interpret its meaning. Cassius Calhoun was 
the individual thus occupied. 

She went not hither, nor thither, without his following her— 
not close, like a shadow ; but by stealth, flitting from place to 
place ; upstairs, and downstairs ; standing in comers, with an 



TAMDrO ▲ WILD MASK. &t 

air of apparent abfltractdon ; but all the while with e^es tamed 
a«kant upon his consin's fhce, like a plain-cloihes policeman 
emploved on detective dnty. 

Strangely enough he did not seem to pay much regard to her 
speeches, made in reply to the compliments showered upon 
her by several would-be winners of a smile — not even when 
these were conspicuous and respectable, as in the case of yonng 
Hancock of the dragoons. To all such he listened without 
risible emotion, as one listens to a conversation in no way 
affecting the affairs either of self or iricnds. 

It was only after ascendii^g to the azotca, on observing his 
cousin near the parapet^ with her eye turned interrogatively 
towards the plain, that his detective zeal became conspicuous — 
so much BO as to attract the notice of others. More than once 
was it noticed by those standing near : for more than once was 
repeated the act which gave cause to it. 

At intervals, not very wide apart, the young mistress of Casa 
dtl Corvo might have been seen to approach the parapet, and 
look across the plain, with a glance tnat seemed to interrogate 
the horizon of the sky. 

Why she did so no one could tell. No one presumed to con- 
jecture, except Cassius Calhoun. Ho had thoughts upon the 
subject — thoughts that were torturing him. 

When a group of moving forms appeared upon the prairie, 
emerging from the garish light of the setting sun — when the 
spectators upon the azotea pronounced it a drove of horses in 
charge of some mounted men — the ex-officer of volunteers had 
a suspicion as to who was conducting that cavallada. 

Another appeared to feel an equal interest in its advent, 
though perhaps from a different motive. Long before the horse- 
drove had attracted the observation of Poindexter's guests, his 
daughter had noted its approach — from the time that a cloud of 
dust soared up against tlie horizon, so slight and filmy as to 
have escaped detection by any eye not bent expressly on 
discovering it. 

From that moment the young Creole, under cover of a con- 
versation carried on amid a circle of fair companions, had been 
slyly scanning the dust-cloud as it drew nearer ; forming con- 
jectures as to what was causing it, upon knowledge already, and 
as she supposed, exclusively, licr own. 

" Wild horses ! " announced the major commandant of Fort 
Inge, after a short inspection through his jiocket telescope. 
*' Some one bringing thcni in," ho added, a second time raising 
the glass to his eye. *' Oh ! I see now — it's Maurice the mus- 
tfinger, who occasionally helps our men to a remount. He 
appt^ars to be coming tliis way — direct to your place, Mr. 
Poin dexter." 

" If it be the young fellow you have named, that's not un- 
likely," replied the o\\Tier of Casa del Corvo. " I bargained 



68 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

with him to catch me a score or two ; and maybe this is the first 
instalment he*s bringing me. 

"Yes, I think it is," he added, after a look through the 
telescope. 

" I am sure of it," said the planter's son. " I can tell the 
horseman yonder to be Maurice Gerald." 

The planter's daughter could have done the same ; though 
she made no display of her knowledge. She did not appear to 
be much interested in the matter — indeed, rather indifferent. 
She had become aware of being watched by that evil eye, 
constantly burning upon her. 

The cavallada came up, Maurice sitting handsomely on his 
horse, with the spotted mare at the end of his lazo. 

" What a beautiful creature ! " exclaimed several voices, as the 
captured mustang was led up in front of the house, quivering 
with excitement at a scene so new to it. 

"It's worth a journey to the ground to look at such an ani- 
mal! " suggested the major's wife, a lady of enthusiastic inclinitigs. 
'* I pi*opose we all go down ! What say you. Miss Poindexter ? " 

" Oh, certainly," answered the mistress of the mansion, 
amidst a chorus of other voices crj'ing out, — 

" Let us go down ! Let us go down ! " 

licd by the majoress, the ladies tiled down the stone stairway 
— the gentlemen after; and in a score of seconds the horse- 
hunter, still seated in his saddle, became, with his captive, the 
centre of the distinguished circle. 

Henry Poindexter had hurried down before the rest, and 
already, in the frankest manner, bidden the stranger welcome. 

Between the latter and Louise only a slight salutation could 
be exchanged. Familiarity with a horse-dealer — even supposing 
him to have had the honour of an introduction — would scarce 
have been tolerated by the " society." 

Of the ladies, the major's wife alone addressed him in a 
familiar way ; but that was in a tone that told of superior 
position, coupled with condescension. He was more gratified bjr 
a glance — quick and silent — when his eye changed intelligence 
with that of the young Creole. 

Hers was not the only one that rested approvingly upon him. 
In truth, the mustanger looked splendid, despite his travel- 
stained habiliments. His journey of over twenty miles had 
done little to fatigue him. The prairie breeze had freshened the 
colour upon his cheeks ; and his full round throat, naked to the 
breast-bone, and slightly bronzed with the sun, contributed to 
the manliness of his mien. Even the dust clinging to his curled 
hair could not altogether conceal its natural gloss, nor the luxu- 
riance of its growth ; while a figure tersely knit told of strength 
and endurance beyond the ordinary endowment of man. There 
were stolen glances, endeavouring to catch his, sent by more 
than one of the fair circle. The pretty niece of the commissary 



TIMING ▲ WILD MABE. 60 

smiled admiTingty upon him. Some said the commissary's 
wife ; bnt this conld be only a slander, to be traced, perhaps, to 
the doctor's "better half— the Lady Teazle of the cantonment. 

** Sorely," said Poindexter, ai'ter making an examination of 
the captured mnstang, " this must be the animal of which old 
Zeb Stomp has been telling me ? " 

•* It or thet eyedenticol same," answered the individual so 
described, making his way towards Maurice with the design of 
iLBsisting him. "Ye-es, Mister Peintdexter ; the cyedenticul 

critter — a maar, es ye kin all see for yurselves " 

•* Yes, yes," hurriedly interposed the planter, not desiring any 
fbrther elucidation. 

" The young fellur hed grupped her afore I got thur ; so I 
WOT jess in the nick o' time 'lx)ut it. She mout a been tuck 
elswhar, an' then Miss Lcwaze thur mout a missed licvin' her." 

** It is true indeed, !Mr. Stump ! It was very thoughtful of 
T<m- I know not how I shall ever be able to reciprocate your 
kindness ? " 

•* Rcciperkate ! Wal, I spose thet air means to do suthin in 
ivtam. Ye kin do thet, miss, 'ithout much difeequilty. I han't 
dnd nothin' for you, ceptin' make a bit o' a journey acrost the 
porayra. To see yur bewtyful self mounted on thet maar, wi' 
yor ploomed het upon yur head, an' yur long-tailed pettykote 
streakin' it ahint you, 'ud pay old Zeb Stump to go clur to the 
Bockies, and back agin." 

"Oh, Mr. Stump! you are an incorrigible flatterer! Look 
uoand you ! you will see many hero more deserving of your 
compliments than I." 

" Wal, wal ! " rejoined Zeb, casting a look of careless scrutiny 
towards the ladies, " I ain't a goin' to deny thet thur air gobs o' 
potty critters hyur — dog-goned putty critters ; but es they used 
to say in ole Loozyanney, thur air but one Lewaze Peintdexter." 
A burst of laughter — in which only a few feminine voices boro 
pert — was the reply to Zeb's gallant speech. 

** I shall owe you two hundred dollars for this," said the 
planter, addressing himself to Maurice, and pointing to the 
spotted mare. '* I think that was the sum stipulated for by Mr. 
Stump." 

**I was not a party to the stipulation," replied the mustanger, 
with a significant but well-intentioned smile. " I cannot take 
your money. She is not for sale." 

** Oh, indeed ! " said the planter, drawing back with an air of 
proud disappointment ; while his brother planters, as well as the 
officers of the Fort, looked astonished at the refusal of such a 
munificent price. Two hundred dollars for an untamed mustang, 
when the usual rate of price was from ten to twenty ! The 
mustanger must be mad ? 

He gave them no time to descant upon his sanity. 

** Mr. Poindexter," he continued, speaking in the same good- 



70 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAK. 

humoured strain, "you have given mo such a generous price for 
my other captives — and before they were taken too — that I can 
afford to make a present — what we over in Ireland call a 
* luckpenny.' It is our custom there also, when a horse-trade 
takes place at the house, to give the douceur, not to the purchaser 
himself, but to one of the fair members of his family. May I 
have your permission to introduce this Hibernian fashion into 
the settlements of Texas ? " 

" Cert^iinly, by all means ! " responded several voices, two or 
three of them immistakably with an Irish accentuation. 

" Oh, certjnnly, Mr. Gerald ! " replied the planter, his con- 
servatism giving way to the popular will — *' as you please about 
that." 

" Thanks, gentlemen — thanks ! " said the mustanger, with a 
patronizing look towards men who believed themselves to be 
his masters. " This mustang is viy luckpenny ; and if Miss 
Poindexter will condescend to accept of it, I shall feel more 
than repaid for 'the three days' chase which the creature has 
cost me. Had she been the most cruel of coquettes, she could 
scarce have been more difficult to subdue." 

" I accept your gift, sir ; and with gratitude," responded the 
young Creole — for the first time prominently proclaiming herself, 
and stepping freely forth as she spoke. " But I have a fancy," 
she continued, pointing to the mustang — at the same time that 
her eye rested inquiringly on the countenance of the mustanger — 
" a fancy that your captive is not yet tamed ? She but trembles 
in fear of the unknown future. She may yet kick against the 
traces, if she find the harness not to her liking ; and then what 
am I to do — poor I ? " 

" TiTie, Maurice ! " said the major, widely mistaken as to the 
meaning of the mysterious speech, and addressing the only man 
on the ground who (;ould possiby have comprehended it ; " Miss 
Poindexter speaks verj- sensibly. That mustang has not been 
tamed yet — any one may see it. Come, my good fellow ! give 
her the lesson. 

" Ladies and- gentlemen ! " continued the major, turning 
towards the company, " this is something worth your seeing — 
those of you who have not witnessed the spectacle before. 
Come, Maurice ; mount, and show us a specimen of prairie 
horsemanship. She looks as thoucfh she would put your skill 
to the test." 

** You are right, major : she does ! " replied the mustanger, 
with a quick glance, directed not towards the captive quadruped, 
but to the young Creole ; who, with all her assumed courage, 
retired tremblingly liehind the circle of spectators. 

" No matter, my man," pursued the major, in a tone intended 
for encouragement. " In spite of that de\'il sparkling in her 
eye, I'll lay ten to one you'll take the conceit out of her. Try ! " 

Without losing credit, the mustanger coidd not have declined 



TAMIXO A WILD MABE. 71 

acceding to the major's request. It was a challenge to skill — to 
eqnestrian prowess — a thing not lightly esteemed upon the 
prairies of Texas. 

He proclaimed his acceptance of it by leaping lightly out of 
his saddle, resigning his own steed to Zeb Stump, and ex- 
dnsively giving his attention to the captive. 

The only preliminary called for was the clearing of the ground. 
This was effected in an instant — the greater part of the com- 
pany — ^with all the ladies — returning to the azotea. 

With only a piece of raw-hide rope looped around the under 

jaw, and carried headstall fashion behind the eai-s — with only 

one rein in hand — ^Maurice sprang to the back of the %vilcl mare. 

It was the first time she had ever been mounted by man — the 

first insult of the kind ofiered to her. 

A shrill spiteful scream spoke plainly her appreciation of and 
determination to resent it. It proclaimed defiance of the 
attempt to degrade her to the condition of a slave ! 

With equine instinct, she reared upon her hind legs, for some 
sceoadfl Ixilancing her body in an erect position. Her rider, 
aoticipating the trick, had tlurown his arms around her neck ; 
and, close clasping her throat, appeared part of herself. But 
for this she might have poised over upon her back, and crushed 
him. beneath her. 

The nprearing of the hind quarters was the next " trick " of 
the mustang — sure of being tried, and most difficult for the 
rider to meet without being thrown. From sheer conceit in his 
skill, he had declined saddle and stirrup, that would now have 
stood him in stead ; but with these he could not have claimed 
accomplishment of the boasted feat of the prairies — to tame the 
naked steed. 

He performed it without them. As the mare raised her hind 
quarters aloft, ho turned quickly upon her back, threw his arms 
around the barrel of her body, and resting his toes upon the 
angular points of her fore shoulders, successfully resisted her 
efforts to unhorse him. 

Twice or three times was the endeavour repeated by the 
mustang, and as often foiled by the skill of the mustanger; 
and then, as if conscious that such efforts were idle, the enraged 
animal plunged no longer ; but, springing away from the spot, 
entered upon a gallop that appeared to have no goal this side 
the ending of the earth. 

It must have come to an end somewhere ; though not within 
sight of the spectators, who kept their places, waiting for the 
horse-tamer's return. 

Conjectures that he ,might bo killed, or, at the least, badly 
*' crippled," were freely ventured during his absence ; and 
there was one who wished it so. But there was also one upon 
whom such an event would have produced a painful impression 
— almost as painful as if her own life depended upon his safe 



7Z THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAX. 

retam. Why LfOniso Poindexter, danghter of the proud 
Louisiana sngar-planter — a belle — a beauty of more than pro- 
vincial repute — who could, by simply saying yes, have had for a 
husband the richest and noblest in the land — why i»he should 
have fixed her fancy, or even permitted her thoughts to stray, 
upon a \}OfyT horse-hunter of Texas, was a mystery that even her 
OHTi intellect — by no means a wcidc one — was unable to fathom. 

Perhaps she had not yet gone so far as to fix her fancy upon 
him. She did not think so herself. Had she thought so, and 
reflected upon it, perhaps she would have recoiled from the 
contemj)lation of certain consequences, that could not have 
failed U) present themselves to her mind. 

She was but conscious of having conceived some strange 
interest in a strange individual — one who had presented himself 
in a fashion that favoured fanciful reflections — one who differed 
essentiiilly from the common-place types introduced to her in 
the world of social distinctions. 

She was conscious, too, that this interest — originating in a 
word, a glance, a gesture — listened to, or observed, amid the 
ashes of a burnt prairie — instead of subsiding, had ever since 
been upon the increase ! 

It was not diminished when Maurice the mustanger came 
riding back across the plain, with the wild mare between his 
legs — no more wild — no longer desiring to destroy him — ^but 
with lowered crest and mien submissive, acknowledging to all 
the world that she liad found her master ! 

Without acknowledging it to the world, or even to herself, 
the young Creole was inspired with a similar reflection. 

" Miss Poindexter ! " said the mustanger, gliding to the ground, 
and without making any acknowledgment to the plaudits that 
were showered u})on him — ** may I ask you to step up to her, 
throw this lazo over her neck, and lead her to the stable ? By 
so doing, she will regard you as her tamer; and ever after 
submit to your will, if you but exhibit ihQ sign that first 
deprived her of her liberty." 

A prude would have paltered with the proposal — a coquette 
would have declined it — a timid girl have shrunk back. 

Not so Louise Poindexter — a descendant of one of the Jilles- 
ii'la'Casette, Without a moment's hesitation — without the 
slightest show of prudery or fear — she stepped forth from the 
aristocratic circle ; as instructed, took hold of the horsehair 
rope ; whisked it across the neck of the tamed mustang ; and 
led the captive off* towards the caballeriza of Casa del Corvo. 

As hIio did so, the mustanger's words were ringing in her 
oars, and echoing through her heart with a strange foreboding 
weird signification. 

" i:ihe icill regard you as her tamer ; and ever after submit to 
your will, if you but exhibit the sign that first deprived her of 
her liberty'' 



73 



CHAPTER Xni. 

A PRAIRIE PIC-NIC. 



Tlie first rays from a rosy aurora, saluting the flag of Fort 
Inge, fell with a more subdued light upon an assemblage of 
objects occupying the parade-ground below — in front of tho 
" officers* quarters." 

A amall snmpter- waggon stood in the centre of the group ; 
having attached to it a double span of tight little Mexican 
mnlea, whose quick impatient " stomping," tails spitefully 
whisked, and ears at intervals turning awry, told that they had 
been for some time in harness, and were impatient to move oif — 
wvming the bystanders, as well, against a too close approxi- 
fliation to their lieels. 

Literally speaking, there were no bystanders — if we except 
a nan of colossal size, in blanket coat, and slouch felt hat ; who, 
Altoite the obscure light straggling around his shoulders, could 
fee identified as Zeb Stump, the hunter. 

He was not standing either, but seated astride liis "olo maar," 
that showed less anxiety to l>e oft* than cither the Mexican 
mules or her own master. 

The other forms around the vehicle were all in motion — 
quick, hurried, occasionally confused — ^liither and thither, from 
the waggon to the door of the quai-ters, and back again from 
the house to the vehicle. 

; There were half a score of them, or thereabouts ; varied in 
* oostame as in the colour of their skins. Most weie soldiers, in 
fife'igne dress, though of different arms of the service. Two 
-would be taken to bo mess-cooks; and two or three more, 
officers' servants, who had been detailed from the ranks. 

A more legitimate specimen of this profession appeared in tho 
person of a well-dressed darkie, who moved about the ground 
in a very authoritative manner; deriving liis importance, from 
his office of valet de tout to the major in coininaud of the can- 
tonment. A sergeant, as shown by his three-barred cheveron, 
was in charge of the mixed party, directing their movements ; 
tho object of which was to load the waggon with eatables and 
drinkables — in shoi*t, the paTjipheiimlia of a pic-nic. 

That it was intended to be ny)on a gr'iind scale, was testified 
by the amplitude and variety of the impedimenta. Tliere wei'e 
hampers and baskets of all shapes and sizes, including tlie well 
knov^Ti parallelo])iped<)n, enctlosing its tv/elve necks of sliining 
silver-lead; while the tin canisters, painted »S[)anisli brown, 
along with the univ(?rsal sardine-case, ])roclainie(l the presence 
cf many luxunes not indigeiious to Texas. 

However delicate and extensive tluj stock of provisions, then? 

£ 



74 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

was one in the ])arty of purveyors who did not appear to think 
it complete. The dissatisfied Luculhis was Zeb Stump. 

" Lookee h^-ur, siirgint," said he, addressing himself con- 
fidentially to the individual in charge, **I haint seed neery 
smell o' com put inter the veehicle as ^-it ; an\ I reck'n, that 
out on the i)ui*ayra, thur'll he some folks ud prefar a leetle 
com to any o' thet theer furrin French stuff*. Sham-pain, yo 
call it, I b'liovo." 

" Prefer corn to champagne ! The horses you mean ? " 

"Hosscs be dumod. I ain't talkin' 'bout hoss com. T 
mean M'nongaheela." 

"Oh — ah — I comprehend. You'it) right about that, Mr. 
Stump. The Avliisky mustn't be forgotten, Pomp. I think I 
saw a jar inside, that's intended to go ? " 

" Yaw — yaw, sagint," responded the dark-skinned domestic; 
" dar am dat same wesicle. Hya it is ! " he added, lugging a 
large jnr into the light, and swinging it up into the waggon. 

Old Zeb apj)oaring to think the packing now complete*, showed 
signs of impatience to be off*. 

*' Ain't ye riddy, surgint ? " he inquired, shifting restlessly in 
his stirrups. 

"Not quite, Mr. Stump. The cook tells mo the chickens 
want another turn uj)on the spit, before we can take 'em along." 

" Dum the chic^kens, an' the cook too ! What air any dung- 
hill fowl to compare wi' a wild turkey o' the purayra ; an' how 
im I to shoot one, arter the sun hev clomb ten mile up the 
sky ? The major sayed I war to git him a gobbler, whativer 
shed happen. *Tain*t so dumation eezy to kill turkey gobbler 
arter sun-up. wi' a clamjamferry like this comin' clost upon a 
fellur's heels? Ye musn't surpose, surgint, that thet ere bird 
air as big a fool as the sodger o' a fort. Of all the cunnin' 
critters as fcrqiionts these hyur purayras, a turkey air the 
cunninest ; an' to git helf way roun' one o' 'em, ye must be np 
along wi' the sun ; and jireehap a leetle urlier." 

" True, 3ilr. Stump. I know the major wants a wild turkey. 
He told me so ; and exj)ects you to procure one on the way." 

" No doubt he do ; an' j)reehap expex me likeways to purvide 
him wi' a bufller's tongue, an' hump — sceiu' as thur ain't sech a 
anynial on the puraynis o' South Texas — nor hain't a l>een for 
good twenty }Tii*s j)ast — noterthstandin' what Em'-op-ean writers 
o* l)(j()ks hev said to the coniraiy, an' 'specially French 'uns, as 
I've lieta'ii. Tliiu* ain't no buflier 'bout h^-ur. Thur's l>aar, an' 
deer, an' g<>ats, an' plenty o' gobblers; but to hev one o' these 
critters for ynr dinner, yc? must git it urly enuf for yur break- 
fist. Unless 1 licv my own time, I W(m't ju'omise to guide yur 
paHy, an' gii ;L^ol)bI(»r both. So, surgint, et ye expex yur grand 
kunipny to chaw tuikoy-iiieat tJiis day, yell do well to be makin' 
tracks for tiu^ ]>;nayrji/' 

Stii'red by ihe hunter's rv.^]nx'.<cntiiiion, the sergeant did all 



A FBAIBIE PIONIC. 75 

that waB possible to hasten the departure of himself and his 
parti-coloured eompanj ; and, shortly after, the provision train, 
irith Zcb Stump as its guide, was wending its way across the 
ezt^ifliTe plain that lies between the Leona and the ^' River of 
Nuts." 

• ••••• 

The parade-ground had been cleared of the waggon and its 
escort scarce twenty minutes, when a party of somewhat diflerent 
mppearanoe commenced assembling upon the same spot. 

There were ladies on horseback; attended, not by grooms, 
as at the "meet" in an English hunting-field, but by the 
gentlemen who were to accompany them — their friends and 
acquaintances — ^fathers, brothers, lovers, and husbands. Most, 
if not all, who had figured at Poindexter's dinner party, were 
floon upon the ground. 

The planter himself was present ; as also his son Henry, his 
nephew Cassias Calhoun, and his daughter Louise — the young 
laoj mounted upon the spotted must^g, that had figured so 
conipicuously on the occasion of the entertainment at Casa del 
Carro. 

The affair was a reciprocal treat — a simple return of hos- 
pitality ; the major and his officers being the hosts, the planter 
and luB friends the invited guests. The entcrtauinicnt about 
to be provided, if less pretentious in luxurious appointments, 
was equally appropriate to the time and place. The guests of 
the cantonment were to be gratified by witnessing a spectacle — 
grand as rare — a chase of wild steeds ! 

The arena of the sport could only be upon the wild-horse 
prairies — some twenty miles to the southward of Fort Inge. 
Hence the necessity for an early start, and being preceded by 
a vehicle laden with an ample commusariat. 

Just as the sunbeams began to dance upon the crystal waters 
of the Leona, the excursionists were ready to take their de- 
parture from the parade-ground — with an escort of twoseore 
dragoons that had been ordered to ride in the rear. Like the 
party that preceded them, they too were j)roviflod with a guide — 
not an old backwoodsman in battered felt hat, and faded Ijlanket 
coat, astride a scragg}' roadster; but a hor.s(»man completely 
costumed and equipped, mounted u])ou a splendid steed, in 
every way worthy to bo the chaperone of sucli a distinguished 
expedition. 

'• Come, Manvi<.*c I " cried the major, on seeing that all had 
assembled, "we're ready to 1m» conducted to i\\v jjraiue. Jjudies 
and irentlenien ! tliis young fellow is thonmglily acqnjiinied with 
the liaunts and habits of the wild horses. If thcrcj's ji man in 
Texas, who can show us how to hunt thcin, 'tis ^Jjuii'ice tlie 
mnstanprer." 

*• Faith, you flatter me, major I *' rejoined tlie yonn^^ Frishmaii, 
turning witli a courteous air towards the company ; " 1 Jiave not 

i: 2 



76 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

said 80 much as that. I can only promise to show 3'ou where 
you may find them." 

"Modest fellow!" soliloquized one, who trembled, as she 
gave thought to what she more than half suspected to be an 
imtruth. 

" Lead on, then ! " commanded the major ; and, at the word, 
the gay cavalcade, "vvith the mustanger in the lead, commenced 
moving across the parade-ground — while the star-spangled 
banner, unfurled by the morning breeze, fluttered upon its staff 
as if waving them an elegant adieu ! 

• ••••• 

A twenty-mile ride upon prairie turf is a mere bagatelle — 
before breakfast, an airing. In Texas it is so regarded by man, 
woman, and horse. 

It was accomplished in less than three hours — without further 
inconvenience than that which arose from performing the last 
few miles of it with appetites uncomfortably keen. 

Fortunately the provision waggon, passed upon the road, came 
close upon their heels ; and, long before the sun had attained 
the meridian line, the excursionists were in full pic-nic under 
the shade of a gigantic pecan tree, that stood near the banks 
of the Nueces. 

No incident had occurred on the way — worth recording. The 
mustanger, as guide, had ridden liabitually in the advance ; the 
company, with one or two exceptions, thinking of him only in 
his official capacity — imless when startled by some feat of horse- 
manship — such as leaping clear over a prairie stream, or dry 
arroyo, which others were fain to ford, or cross by the crooked 
path. 

There may have been a suspicion of bravado in this behaviour 
— a desire to exhibit. Cassius Calhoun told the company there 
was. Perhaps the ex-captain spoke the truth — for once. 

If so, there was also some excuse. Have you ever been in a 
hunting-field, at home, with riding habits trailing the sward, 
and plumed hats proudly nodding ai*ound you? You have: 
and then what? Be cautious how you condemn the Texan 
mustanger. Reflect, that he, too, was under the artillery of 
bright eyes — a score pair of them — some as bright as ever looked 
love out of a lady's saddle. Think, that Louise Poindexter's 
were among the number — think of that, and you will scarce feel 
surprised at the ambition to " shine." 

There were others equally demonstrative of personal accom- 
plishments — of prowess that might prove manhood. The young 
dragoon, Hancock, frequently essayed to show that he was not 
new to the saddle ; and the lieutenant of mounted rifles, at 
intervals, strayed from the side of the commissary's niece for the 
performance of some equestrian feat, without looking exclusively 
to her, his reputed sweetheart, as he listened to the whisperings 
of applause. 



THE MAKADA. 11 

Ah, daughter of Poindexter! Whether in the ialom of 
civilized Louisiana, or the prairies of savage Texas, peace could 
not reign in thy presence! Go where thou wilt, romantic 
thonghts must spring up — ^wild passions be engendered around 
thee! 



CHAPTER XIV. 

THE MANADA. 

Had their guide held the prairies in complete control — its 
denizens subject to his secret will — ^responsible to time and place 
— ^he could not have conducted the excursionists to a spot more 
likely to furnish the sport that had summoned them forth. 

Just as the sparkling Johannisberger — obtained from the 
Genoan wine-stores of San Antonio — had imparted a brighter 
Une to the sky, and a more vivid gp:«en to the grass, the cry 
**Miisteiios I " was heard above the hum of conversation, inter- 
rupting the half-spoken sentiment, with the peal of merry 
laughter. It came from a Mexican vaquero, who had been 
stationed as a vidette on an eminence near at hand. 

Maurice — at the moment partaking of the hospitality of his 
employers, freely extended to him — suddenly quaffed off the 
cup ; and springing to his saddle, cried out, — 

"2^*0," answered the Mexican ; ^^manada." 

*'What do the fellows mean by their gibberish?'* inquired 
Captain Calhoun. 

*' Mu^enos is only the Mexican for mustangs,*' replied the 
major; "and by 'manada' he means they are wild mares — a 
drove of them. At this season they herd together, and keep 
apart from the horses ; unless when " 

" When what ? " impatiently asked the ex- officer of volunteers, 
interrupting the explanation. 

** When they are attacked by asses," innocently answered the 
major. 

A general peal of laughter rendered doubtful the naivete of the 
major's response — imparting to it the suspicion of a })ersonality 
not intended. 

For a moment Calhoun writhed under the awkward miscon- 
ception of the auditory ; but only for a mcjment. He was not 
the man to succumb to an unlucky accident of speech. On the 
contrary, he perceived the chance of a triumphant reply ; and 
took advantage of it. 

" Indeed ! " he drawled out, without appearing to address 
himself to any one in particular. " I was not aware that donkeys 
were so dangerous in these parts.'' 



78 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAK. 

As CalhoTm said this, he was not looking at Lonise Poindezter 
or he miglit have detected in her eye a glance to gratify him. 

The young Creole, despite an apparent coolness towards him, 
could not withhold admiration at anything that showed clever- 
ness. His case might not be so hopeless ? 

The young dragoon, Hancock, did not think it so ; nor yet 
the lieutenant of rifles. Both observed the approving look, and 
both became imbued with the belief that Cassius Calhoun had — 
or might have — in his keeping, the happiness of his cousin. 

The conjecture gave a secret chagrin to both, but especially 
to the dragoon. 

There was but short time for him to reflect upon it ; the 
manada was drawing near. 

" To the satldle ! " was the thought upon every mind, and the 
cry upon every tongue. 

The bit was rudely inserted between teeth still industriously 
grinding the yellow com ; the bridle drawn over shoulders^ yet 
smoking after the quick skurry of twenty miles through the 
close atmosphere of a tropical mom ; and, before a hundred 
could have been deliberately counted, every one, ladies and 
gentlemen alike, was in the stirrup, ready to ply whip and 
spur. 

By this time the wild mares appeared coming over the crest 
of the ridge upon which the vidette had been stationed. He, 
himself a horse-catcher by trade, was already mounted, and in 
their midst — endeavouring to fling his lazo over one of the herd. 
They Avere going at mad gallop, as if fleeing from a pursuer — 
some dreaded creature that was causing them to "whigher'* 
and snort ! With their eyes strained to the rear, they saw 
neither the sumpter waggon, nor the equestrians clustering* 
around it, but were continuing onward to the spot; which 
chanced to lie directly in the line of their flight. 

" They are chased ! " remarked Maurice, observing the excited 
action of the animals. 

" What is it, Crespino ? " he cried out to the Mexican, who, 
from his position, must have seen any pursuer that might be 
after them. 

There was a momentary pause, as the party awaited the 
response. In the crowd were countenances that betrayed un- 
easiness, some even alarm. It might be Indians who were in 
pursuit of the mustangs ! 

" Un 081710 cimmaroii ! " was the phrase that came from the 
mouth of the Mexican, though by no means terminating the 
suspense of the picknickers. " Un macho! " he added. 

" Oh ! That's it ! I thought it was ! " muttered MauriccI 
" The rascal must be stopped, or he'll spoil our sport. So long" 
as he's after them, they'll not make halt this side the sky line. 
Is the macho coming on ? " 

" Close at hand, Don Maoricio. Making straight for myselfl'* 



THE MANADA. 79 

" Fling yonr rope over him, if you can. If not, cripple him 
with a shot — anything to put an end to his c*ai>ers." 

The character of the pursuer was still a inysteiy to most, if 
not all, upon the ground: for only the mustiinger knew the 
exact signification of the phrases — '*un asino cimniaron," "un 
macho." 

*^ £zplain, Maurice ! " commanded the major. 

" Liook yonder! " replied the young IriiijUmiiii, pointing to the 
top of the hill. 

The two words were sufficient. All eyes Ixicaiuc directed 
towards the crest of the ridge, where an animal, usually regarded 
as the type of slowness and stupidity, was seen advancing with 
the swiftness of a bird upon the wing. 

But very difierent is the "aeino cimmaron" from the ass of 
civilization — the donkey hecudgelled into stolidity. 

The one now in sight was a male, almost as large as any of tho 
nmstangs it was chasing ; and if not iicot as the fleetest, still 
aUe to keep up with them by the sheer pertinacity of its 
panait ! 

The tableau of nature, thus presented on the green surface of 
the prairie, was as promptly produced as it could have been 
vpon the stage of a theati-e, or the arena of a liippodrome. 

Scarce a score of words had passed among the spectators, 
before the wild mares were close up to them ; and tlien, as if for 
the first time, perceiving the mounted party, they seemed to forget 
their dreaded pursuer, and shied off iii a slanting direction. 

** Ladies and gentlemen ! " shouted the guide to a score of 
people, endeavouring to restrain their steeds ; '* koej) your places, 
if you can. I know where the herd has its liaunt. They are 
heading towards it now ; and we shall find them again, with a 
better chance of a chase. If you pursue them at this moment, 
they'll scatter into yonder chapparal ; and ten to one if we ever- 
more get sight of them. 

** Hola, Seiior Crespino ! Send your bullet through that brute. 
He's near enough for your eitcapette^ is he not ? " 

The Mexican, detaching a short gun — " cscopeta " — from his 
saddle-fiap, and hastily bringing its butt to his shoulder, fired at 
the wild ass. 

The animal brayed on hearing tho report ; but only as if in 
defiance. He was evidently untouched. Crespiiio's bullet had 
not been truly aimed. 

" I must stop him ! " exclaimed Maurice, " or the marcs will 
run on till the end of daylight." 

As the mustanger spoke, he struck the spur shai'ply into the 
fiauks of his horse. Like an arrow projected from its bow, 
Castro shot ofi' in pursuit of the jackass, now galloping regard- 
lessly past. 

Half a dozen springs of the blood bay, guided in a diagonal 
direction, brought his rider within casting distiince ; and like 



80 THE HEADLESS HOUSEMAN. 

a flash of liglitniiig, the loop of the lazo was seen descending 
over the long ears. 

On launching it, the mustanger halted, and made a half- wheel 
— the horse going round as upon a pivot ; and with like mecha- 
nical obedience to the will of his ridur, bracing himself for the 
expected pluck. 

There was a short interval of intense expectation, as the wild 
ass, careering onward, took up the slack of the rope. Then the 
animal was seen to rise erect on its hind legs, and fall heavily 
backward upon the sward — where it lay motionless, and appa- 
rently as dead, as if shot through the heart ! 

It was only stunned, however, by the shock, and the quick 
tightening of the loop causing temporary strangulation ; which 
the Mexican mustanger prolonged to eternity, by drawing his 
8hari>-edged machete across its throat. 

The incident caused a postponement of the chase. All awaited 
the action of the guide ; who, after " throwing" the macho, had 
dismounted to recover his lazo. 

He had succeeded in releasing the rope from the neck of the 
prostrate animal, when he was seen to coil it up with a quick- 
ness that betokened some new cause of excitement — at the same 
time that he ran to regain his saddle. 

Only a few of the others — most being fully occupied with their 
own excited steeds — observed this show of haste on the part of 
the mustanger. Those who did, saw it with surprise. He had 
counselled patience in the pursuit. They could perceive no 
cause for the eccentric change of tactics, unless it was that 
Louise Poindcxter, mounted on the spotted mustang, had sud- 
denly separated from the company, and was galloping offl after 
the wild mares, as if resolved on being foremost of the field ! 

But the hunter of wild horses had not construed her conduct in 
tliis sense. That uncourteous start could scarce be an intention 
— except on the part of the spotted mustang? Maurice had 
recognized the manada, as the same from which he had himself 
captured it : and, no doubt, with the design of rejoining its old 
associates, it was running away with its rider ! 

So believed the guide ; and the belief became instantly uni- 
versal. 

Stirred by gallantry, half the field spurred off in pursuit : 
Calhoun, Hancock, and Grossman leading, with half a score of 
young planters, lawyoi-s, and legislators close following — each as 
he rode off reflecting to himself, what a bit of luck it would be 
to bring up the runaway. 

But few, if any, of the gentlemen felt actual alarm. All knew 
that Louise Poindexter was a splendid equestrian ; a spacious 
plain lay before her, smooth as a racetrack ; the mustang might 
gallop till it tired itself down ; it could not throw her ; thero 
could be little chance of her receiving any serious injury ? 



THE BUNAWAT OVERTAKEN. 81 

There waa one who did not entertain this confident view. It 
he who had heen the first to show anxiety — the mustanger 
himself. 

He was the last to leave the ground. Delayed in the re- 
smoigement of his lazo— a moment more in remonnting — lie 
was a hundred paces behind every competitor, as his horse 
sprang forward npon the pursuit. 

Calhoun was a like distance in the lead, pressing on with all 
the desperate energy of his nature, and all the speed ho could 
extract from the heels of his horse. The dragoon and rifleman 
were a little in his rear ; and then came the " ruck." 

Maurice soon passed through the thick of the field, overlapped 
the leaders one by one ; and forging still further ahead, showed 
Cassius Calhoun the heels of his horse. 

A muttered curse was sent hissing through the teeth of the ex- 
oflficer of volunteers, as the blood bay, bounding past, concealed 
from, his sight the receding form of the spotted mustang. 

The sun, looking down from the zenith, gave light to a 
flngular tableau. A herd of wild mares going at reckless speed 
across the prairie ; one of their own kind, witli a lady upon its 
hack, following about four hundred yards behind; at a like 
distance after the lady, a steed of red bay colour, bestridden 
by a cavalier picturesquely attired, and apparently intent upon 
overtaking her; still ftu*ther to the rear a string of mounted 
men — some in civil, some in military, garb ; behind these a troop 
of dragoons going at full gallop, having just parted from a 
mixed group of ladies and gentlemen — also mounted, but motion- 
less, on the plain, or only stirring around the same spot -with 
excited gesticulations ! 

In twenty minutes the tableau was changed. The same 
personages were upon the stage — the grand tapi^ vert of the 
prairie — but the grouping was difierent, or, at all events, the 
groups were more widely apaii:. The manada had gained 
distance upon the spotted mustang ; the mustiing upon the 
blood bay ; and the blood bay — ah ! his competitors were no 
longer in sight, or could only have been seen l)y the far-piercing 
eye of the caracara, soaring high in the sapphire heavens. 

The wild mares — the mustang and its idder — the red horse, 
and his — had the savanna to themselves ! 



CPIAPTER XV. 

THE IIUNAWAY OVKRTAKIIX. 

For another mile the cha.so continued, without much change. 
The mares still swept on in full ilight, though no longpr 
screaming or in fear. The mustang still uttered an occasional 

E 3 



82 TUE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

neigh, whicli its okl associates seemed not to notice ; while its 
rider held her scat in the saddle unshaken, and withont any 
apparent alarm. 

The blood bay appeared more excited, though not so much as 
liis master; who was beginning to show signs either of de- 
spondency or chagrin. 

" Come, Castro ! " he exclaimed, with a certain spitefulness 
of tone. "What the deuce is the matter with your heels — 
to-day of all others ? Remember, you overtook her before — 
though not so easily, I admit. But now she's weighted. Look 
yonder, you dull brute ! Weighted with that which is worth 
more than gold — ^worth every drop of your blood, and mine too. 
The yegua pinta seems to have improved her paces. Is it 
from training ; or does a horse run faster when ridden ? 

" What if I lose sight of her ? In truth, it begins to look 
queer ! It would be an awkward situation for the young lady. 
Worse than that — there's danger in it — real danger. If I should 
lose sight of her, she*d be in trouble to a certainty ! " 

Thus muttenng, Maurice rode on : his eyes now fixed upon 
the form still flitting away before him ; at intervals interrogating, 
with uneasy glances, the space that separated him from it. 

Up to this time ho had not thought of hailing the rider of 
the runaway. 

His shouts might have been heard ; but no words of warning, 
or instruction. He had refrained: partly on this account; 
partly because he was in momentary expectation of over- 
taking her ; and partly because he knew that acts, not words, 
were wanted to bring the mustang to a stand. 

All along he had been flattering himself that he would soon 
be near enough to fling his lazo over the creature's neck, and 
control it at discretion. He was gradually becoming relieved of 
this hallucination. 

The chase now entered among copses that thickly studded 
the plain, fast closing into a continuous chapparal. This was 
a new soui^ce of uneasiness to the pursuer. The runaway might 
take to the thicket, or become lost to his view amid the windings 
of the wood. 

The wild mares were already invisible — at intervals. They 
would soon be out of sight altogether. There seemed no 
chance of their old associate overtaking them. 

What mattered that ? A lady lost on a prairie, or in a chap- 
paral — alone, or in the midst of a manada — either contingency 
])oiuted to certain danger. 

A still more startling peril suggested itself to the mind of 
the mustanger — so startling as to find expression in excited 
speech. 

*' By heavens ! '* he ejaculated, his brow becoming more 
•clouded than it had been from his first entering upon the 
cliase. "7/* the stallians should chance this ^ way! 'Tis their 



THE BUXAWAT OVERTAKEN. 88 

iaTonrite stamping ground among these mottes. They were 
here bat a week ago ; and this — yes — 'tis the month of their 
madness ! " 

The spur of the mnstangcr again drew blood, till its rowels 
were red ; and Castro, galloping at his ntmost speed, glanced 
back npbraidingly over his shoulder. 

At this crisis the manaHa disappeared from the sight both of 
the blood-bay and his master ; and most probably at the same 
time firom that of the spotted mustang and i^s rider. There was 
nothing mysterious in it. The mares had entered between the 
closing of two copses, where the shrubbery hid them from 
view. 

The eflfect produced upon the runaway appeared to proceed 
froni some magical influence. As if their disappearance was a 
signal for discontinuing the chase, it suddenly slackened pace ; 
and the instant after came to a standstill ! 

Maurice, continuing his gallop, came up ^vith it in the middle 
of a meadow-like ghde — standing motionless as marble — its 
rider, reins in hand, sitting silent in the saddle, in an attitude 
of easy elegance, as if waiting for him to ride up ! 

** Miss Poindexter ! " he gasped out, as he spurred his steed 
within speaking distance : '^ I am glad that you have re- 
covered command of that wild creatune. I was beginning to 

be alarmed about " 

"About what, sir?" was the question that startled the 
mnstanger. 

"Your safety — of course," he replied, somewhat stammeringly. 
"Oh, thank you, Mr. Gerald; but I was not aware of 
having been in any danger. Was I really so ? " 

"Any danger! " echoed the Irishman, with increased astonish- 
ment. " On the back of a runaway mustaog — in the middle 
of a pathless prairie ! " 

" And what of that ? The thing couldn't throw me. Im 
too clever in the saddle, sir." 

*' I know it, madame ; but that accomplishment would have 
availed you very little had you lost yourself, a thing you were 
Hke enough to have done among these chapparal copses, where 
the oldest Texan can scarce find his way." 

" Oh — J(Mi myself! That was the danger to be dreaded ? " 
"There are others, besides. Suppose you had fallen in 

with " 

" Indians ! " interrupted the lady, without waiting for the 
mnstanger to finish his hypothetical speech. " And if I had,'' 
what would it have mattered Y Aro not the (/oman(jhe8 en paz 
at present ? Surely they wouldn't have mok'stinl me, gallant 
fellows as they are ? So the major told us, jus we came along. 
Ton my word, sir, I should seek, rather than shun, such an 
encounter. I wish to see the noble savage on liis native prairie, 
and on horselxack; not, as I've hitliei'to beheld him, reeling 



84 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAK. 

aroxind the settlements in a state of debasement from too freely 
partaking of our lire- water." 

" I admire your courage, miss ; but if I had the honour of 
being one of your friends, I should take the liberty of counselling 
a little caution. The ' noble savage ' you speak of, is not 
always sober upon the prairies ; and perhaps not so very gallant 
as you've been led to believe. K you had met him " 

"If I had met him, and he had attempted to misbehave 
himself, I would have given him the go-by, and ridden straight 
back to my friends. On such a swifb creature as this, he must 
have been well mounted to have overtaken me. You found some 
difl&culty — did you not? " 

The eyes of the young Irishman, already showing astonish- 
ment, became expanded to increased dimensions — surprise and 
incredulity being equally blended in their glance. 

" But," said he, after a speechless pause, " you don't mean to 

say that you could have controlled that the mustang was 

not running away with you ? Am I to understand " 

" No — no — ^no ! " hastily rejoined the fair equestrian, showing 
some slight embarrassment. " The mare certainly made off with 
me — that is, at the first — but I — I found, that is — at the last — I 
found I could easily pull her up. In fact I did so : you 
saw it?" 

" And could you have done it sooner ? " 

A strange thought had suggested the interrogatory ; and with 
more than ordinary interest the questioner awaited the reply. 

" Perhaps — perhaps — I might ; no doubt, if I had dragged 
a little harder upon the rein. But you see, sir, I like a good 
gallop — esj>ecially upon a prairie, where there's no fear of run- 
ning over pigs, poultry, or people." 

Maurice looked amaze. In aU his experience — even in his 
own native land, famed for feminine hraverie — above all in the 
way of bold riding — he had met no match for the clever 
equestrian before him. 

His astonishment, mixed with admiration, hindered him from 
making a ready rejoinder. 

" To speak truth," continued the young lady, with an air 
of charming simplicity, " I was not sorry at being run off with. 
One sometimes gets tired of too much talk — of the kind called 
complimentary. I wanted fresh air, and to be alone. So you 
see, Mr. Gerald, it Avas rather a bit of good fortune : since it 
saved explanations and adieus." 

" You wanted to be alone ? " responded the mustanger, with 
a disappointed look. " I am sorry I should have made the 
mistake to have intruded upon you. I assure you, Miss Poin- 
dexter, I followed, because I believed you to be in danger." ♦ -••^ 

" Most gallant of you, sir; and now that I know there fw» 
danger, I am truly grateful. I presume I have guessed aright : 
you meant the Indians ? " 



THE SUNAWAT OYERTAKEX. 85 

** No ; not Indiaxia exactly — at least, it was not of them I was 
iliiiiking/' 

** Some other danger ? What is it, sir ? You will tell me, so 
that I may be more cantious for the ftiture ? " 

Maurice did not make immediate answer. A sonnd striking 
upon his ear had caused him to turn away — as if inattentive to 
the interrogatory. 

The Creole, perceiving there was some cause for his abstrac- 
tion, likewise assumed a listening attitude. She heard a shrill 
scream, succeeded by another and another, close followed by a 
load hammering of hoofs — the conjunction of sounds causing 
the still atmosphere to vibrate around her. 

It was no mystery to the hunter of horses. The words that 
came quick from his lips — though not designed — were a direct 
answer to the question she had put. 

'* The wild stallions / " he exclaimed, in a tone that l>etokened 
alarm. '* I knew they must be among those mottes ; and they 



are 



" Is that the danger of which you have been speaking ? " 

" It is." 

*' What fear of them ? They are only mustangs ! " 

" True, and at other times there is no cause to fear them. 
But just now, at this season of the year, they become as savage 
as tigers, and equally as vindictive. Ah ! the wild steed in his 
rage is an enemy more to be dreaded than wolf, panther, or 
bear." 

" What are we to do? " inquired the young lady, How, for 
the first time, giving proof that she felt fear — ^by riding close up 
to the man who had once before rescued her from a situation of 
peril, and gazing anxiously in his face, as she awaited the 
answer. 

" If they should charge upon us," answered Maurice, " there 
are but two ways of escape. One, by ascending a tree, and 
abandoning our horses to their ftiry." 

" The other ? " asked the Creole, with a sang froid that 
showed a presence of mind likely to stand the test of the most 
exciting crisis. " Anything but abandon our animals ! 'T would 
be but a shabby way of making our escape ! " 

" We shall not have an opportunity of trying it. I perceive 
it is impracticable. There's not a ti^ee within sight large enough 
to afford us security. If attacked, wo have no alternative but to 
trust to the fleetness of our horses. Unfortunately,'' continued 
he, with a glance of insj)ecti()n towards the spottcnl mare, and 
then at his own horse, " they've had too much work this morning. 
Both are badly blown. That will be our greatest source of 
danger. The wild steeds are sure to be fresh." 

" Do you intend us to start now ? " 

" Not yet. The longer we can breathe our animals the better. 
The stallions may not come this way ; or if so, may not molest 



^6 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

US. It "will depend on their mood at the moment. K battling 
among themselves, we may look ont for their attack. Then they 
hare lost their reason — ^if I may so speak — and will recklessly 
rush upon one of their own kind — even with a man upon his 
back. Ha ! *tis as I expected : they are in conflict. I can tell by 
their cries ! And driving this way, too ! " 

" But, Mr. Gerald ; why should we not ride off at once, in 
the opposite direction ? " 

" 'Twould be of no use. There's no cover to conceal us, on 
that side — nothing but open plain. They'll be out upon it 
before we could get a sufficient start, and would soon overtake 
us. The place we must make for — the only safe one I can think 
of — ^lies the other way. They are now upon the direct path 
to it, if I can judge by what I hear ; and, if we start too soon, 
we may ride into their teeth. We must wait, and try to steal 
away behind them. If we succeed in getting past, and can 
keep our distance for a two-mile gallop, I know a spot, where we 
shall be as safe as if inside the corrals of Casa del Corvo. You 
are sure you can control the mustang ? ** 

" Quite sure," was the prompt reply : all idea of deception 
being abandoned in presence of the threatening peril. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

CHASED BY WILD STALLIONS. 

The two sat expectant in their saddles — she, apparently, 
with more confidence than he : for she confided in him. Still 
but imperfectly comprehending it, ■ she knew there must be 
some great danger. When such a man showed sign of fear, it 
could not be otherwise. She had a secret happiness in thinking : 
that a portion of this fear was for her own safety. 

" I think we may venture now ;" said her companion, after a 
short period spent in listening ; " they appear to have passed 
the opening by which we must make our retreat. Look well to 
your riding, I enti'eat you! Keep a firm seat in the saddle, 
and a sure hold of the rt^in. Gallop by my side, where the 
ground will admit of it ; but in no case let more than the length 
of my horse's tail be between us. I must perforce go ahead 
to guide the way. Ha ! they are coming direct for the glade. 
They're already close to its edge. Our time is up ! " 

The profound stillness that but a short while before pervaded 
the prairie, no longer reigned over it. In its stead had arisen 
a fracas that resembled the outpouring of some overcrowded 
asylum ; for in the shrill neighing of the steeds might have 
been fancied the screams of numiacs — only ten times more 



CHASED BY WILD STALUONS. 87 

Tociferous. They were mingled with a thunder-like hammering of 
hoofs — a swishing and crashing of branches — savage snorts, 
aocompaoied by the sharp snapping of teeth — the dull "thud" 
of heels coming in contact with ril^ and rounded hips — squeal- 
ing that betokened spite or pain — all forming a combination of 
fionnds that jarred harshly upon the ear, and caused the earth 
to quake, as if oscillating upon its orbit ! 

It told of a terrible conflict carried on by the wild stallions ; 
who, still unseen, were fighting indiscriminately among them- 
selves, as they held their way among the mottes. 

Not much longer unseen. As Maurice gave the signal to 
start, the speckled crowd showed itself in an opening between two 
copses. In a moment more it filled the gangway-like gap, and 
commenced disgorging into the glade, with the impetus of an 
avalanche ! 

It was composed of living forms — ^the most beautiful known 
in nature : for in this man must give way to the horse. Not the 
nnsexed horse of civilization, with hunched shoulders, bandied 
limbs, and bowed frentlet — scarce one in a thousand of true 
equine shape — and this, still further, mutilated by the shears of 
the coper and gentleman jockey — but the wild steed of the 
savannas, foaled upon the green grass, his form left free to 
develop as the flowers that shed their fragrance around him. 

Eye never beheld a more splendid sight than a cavallada of 
wild stallions, prancing upon a prairie ; especially at that season 
when, stirred by strong passions, they seek to destroy one another. 
The spectacle is more than splendid — it is fearful — ^too fearful 
to be enjoyed by man, much less by timid woman. Still more 
when the spectator views it from an exposed position, liable to 
become the object of their attack. 

In such situation were the riders of the blood bay and spotted 
mustang. The former knew it by past experience — the latter 
could not fail to perceive it by the evidence before her. 

** This way ! " cried Maurice, lancing his horse's flanks with the 
spur, and bending so as to oblique to the rear of the cavallada. 

" By heaven — they've discovered us ! On — on ! Miss Poin- 
dcxter ! Remember you are riding for your life ! " 

The stimulus of speech was not needed. The behaviour of 
the stallions was of itself sufficient to show, that speed alone 
could save the spotted mustang and its rider. 

On coming out into the open ground, and getting sight of the 
ridden horses, they had suddenly desisted from their internecine 
strife ; and, as if acting under the orders of some skilled leader, 
come to a halt. In line, too, like cavalry checked up in the 
middle of a charge ! 

For a time their mutual hostility seemed to be laid aside — as 
if they felt called upon to attack a common enemy, or resist some 
common danger ! 

The pause may have proce.nled from surprise ; but, whether 



88 THE HEADLESS HOBSEHAK. 

or no, it was favourable to the ftigitives. During the twenty 
seconds it continued, the latter had made good use of their time, 
and accomplished the circuit required to put them on the path 
of safety. 

Only on the path, however. Their escape was stiU problem- 
atical : for the steeds, perceiving their intention, wheeled sud- 
denly into the line of pursuit, and went galloping after, with 
snorts and screams that betrayed a spiteful determination to 
overtake them. 

From that moment it became a straight unchanging chase 
across country — a trial of speed Ijetween the horses without 
riders, and the horses that were ridden. 

At intervals did Maurice carry his chin to his shoulder ; and 
though still preserving the distance gained at the start, his look 
was not the less one of apprehension. 

Alone he would have laughed to scorn his pursuers. He 
knew that the blood-bay — ^himself a prairie steed — could surpass 
any competitor of his race. But the mare was delaying him. 
She was galloping slower than he had ever seen her — as if xm- 
willing, or not coveting escape — like a horse -with his head turned 
away from home ! 

" What can it mean ?" muttered the mustanger, as he checked 
his pace, to accommodate it to that of his companion. "If 
there should be any baulk at the crossing, we're lost ! A score 
of seconds will make the difference." 

"We keep our distance, don't we?" inquired his fellow- 
ftigitive, noticing his troubled look. 

" So far, yes. Unfortunately there's an obstruction ahead. 
It remains to be seen how we shall get over it. I know you are 
a clever rider, and can take a long leap. But your mount ? I'm 
not so sure of the mare. You know her better than I. Do you 
think she can carry you over " 

"Over what, sir?" 

" You'll see in a second. We should be near the place now." 

The conversation thus carried on was between two individuals 
riding side by side, and going at a gallop of nearly a mile to the 
minute ! 

As the guide had predicted, they soon came within sight of 
the obstruction ; which proved to be an arroyo — a yawning 
fissure in the plain fall fifteen feet in width, as many in depths 
and ti'cnding on each side to the verge of vision. 

To tuni aside, either to the right or left, would be to give the 
pursuers the advantage of the diagonal ; which the fugitives 
could no longer afford. 

The chasm must bo crossed, or the stallions would overtake 
them. 

It could only be crossed by a leap — fifteen feet at the least. 
Maurice knew that his own horse could go over it — he liad done 
it before. But the mare ? 



OIASED BY WILD STALLIONS. 89 

** Do you tliiDk she can do it ? " ho eagerly asked, as, in 
slackened pace, they approached the edge of the barranca. 
" I am sure she can,** was the confident reply. 
•* Bat are yon sure yon can sit her over it ? ** 
"Ha! ha! ha!" scomftdly langhed the Creole. "What a 
question for an Irishman to ask I I'm snre, sir, one of your 
own countrywomen would be offended at your speeeli. Even I, 
a native of swampy Louisiana, don't regard it as at all gallant. 
Sit her over it ! Sit her anywhere she can caiTy me.'* 

" But, Miss Poindexter,'* stammered tlie guide, still doubting 
the powers of the spotted nmstang, " suppose she cannot ? If 
you have any doubts, had you not better abandon her ? I know 
that my horse can bear u^ both to the other side, and with safety. 
If the mustang be left behind, in all likelihood we sliall escai)e 

further pursuit. The wild steeds ** 

" Leave Luna behind I Leave her to be trampled to death, or 
torn to pieces — as you say she would 1 No — no, Mr. Gerald. I 
prire the spotted mare too much for that. She goes with mo : 
o?er the chasm, if we can. If not, we both break our necks at the 
bottom. Come, my pretty pet ! This is he who chased, captured, 
and conquered you. Show him you're not yet so subdued, but 
that you can escape, when close pressed, from the toils of either 
firiend or enemy. Show him one of those leaps, of which 
vou've done a dozen within the week. Now for a flight in the 
kir!" 

Without even waiting for the stimulus of example, tlie cou- 
rageous Creole rode recldessly at the arroyo ; and cleared it by 
one of those leaps of which she hud ^' done a dozen >vithin the 
week." 

There were three thoughts in the mind of the mustanger — 
rather might they be called emotions — as he sate watching that 
leap. The first was simple astonishment; the second, intense 
admiration. The third was not so easily defined. It had its 
imgin in the words — " I prize the spotted mare too much for 
thatr 

" Why ? " reflected he, as he drove his spur-rowels into the 
flanks of the blood bay ; and the reflection lasted as long as 
Castro was suspended in mid-air over the yawning abysm. 

Cleverly as the chasm was crossed, it did not ensure the safety 
of the fugitives. It would be no obstniction to the steeds. 
Maurice knew it, and looked back with undiminished appre- 
hension. 

Rather was it increased. The delay, short as it was, had 
given the pursuers an advantage. They were nearer than ever ! 
They would not be likely to make a moment's pause, but clear 
the crevasse at a single l)<)und of their sure-footed gallop. 
And then — what then ? 

The mustanger put the question to himself. He grow paler, 
as the reply puzzled him. 



90 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

On alighting from the leap, he had not pansed for a second, 
but gone galloping on — as before, close followed by his fogitive 
companion. His pace, however, was less impetuous. He seemed 
to ride with irresolution, or as if some half-formed resolve was 
restraining him. 

When about a score lengths from the edge of the arroyo, he 
reined up and wheeled round — as if he had suddenly formed 
the determination to ride back ! 

" Miss Poindexter ! *' he called out to the young lady, at that 
moment just up with him. " You must ride on alone.'* 

"But why, sir? " asked she, as she jerked the muzzle of the 
mustang cIoho up to its counter, bringing it almost instanta- 
neously to a stand. 

" If we keep together we shall be overtaken. I must do 
something to stay those savage brutes. Here there is a chance 
— nowhere else. For heaven's sake don't question me 1 Ten 
seconds of lost time, and 'twill be too Late. Look ahead yonder. 
You perceive the sheen of water. 'Tis a prairie pond. Bide 
straight towards it. You will find yourself between two high 
fences. They come together at the pond. You'll see a gap, 
with bars. If I'm not up in time, gedlop through, dismount, 
and put the bars up behind you." 

" And you, sir ? You arc going to undergo some great 
danger ? " 

*' Have no fear for me ! Alone, I shall run but little risk. 'Tis 

the mustang For mercy's sake, gallop forward ! Keep the 

water under your eyes. Let it guide you like a beacon fire. 
Remember to close the gap behind you. Away — away ! " 

For a second or two the young lady appeared irresolute — as 
if reluctant to part company with the man who was making 
such efforts to ensure her safety — perhaps at the peril of his 
own. 

By good fortune she was not one of those timid maidens who 
turn frantic at a crisis, and drag to the bottom the swimmer 
who would save them. She Imd faith in the capability of her 
counsellor — believed that he knew what he was about — and, once 
more spurring the mare into a gallop, she rode off in a direct 
line for the prairie pond. 

At the same instant, Maurice liad given the rein to his horse, 
and was riding in the opposite direction — ^back to the place 
where they had leaped the arroyo ! 

On parting from his companion, he had drawn from his saddle 
holster the finest weapon ever wielded upon the prairies — either 
for attack or defence, against Indian, buffalo, or bear. It was 
the six- chambered revolver of Colonel Colt — not the spurious 
imprcyvement of Deane, Adams, and a host of retrograde imitators 
— but the genuine article from the " land of wooden nutmegs,'* 
with the Hartford brand upon its breech. 

" They must get over the narrow place where we crossed," 



THE ICCSTAUG TRAP. 01 

muttered he, as he faced towards the stallions, still advancing 
on the other side of the arroyo. 

** If I can bnt fling one of them in his tracks, it may hinder 
the others from attempting the leap; or delay them — long 
enough for the mustang to make its escape. The big sorrel is 
leading. He will make the spring first. The pistol 's good for 
a hundred paces. He*s within range now ! " 

Simtdtaneons with the last words came the crack of the six* 
fliiooter. The largest of the stallions — a sorrel in colour — rolled 
headlong npon the sward ; his carcass falling transversely across 
the line that led to the leap. 

Half-a-dozen others, close following, were instantly bronght 
to a stand ; and then the whole cavallada ! 

The mnstanger stayed not to note their movements. Taking 
advantage of tiiie con^ion cansed by the fall of their leader, he 
reserved the fire of the other five chambers ; and, wheeling to the 
west, spurred on after the spotted mustang, now far on its way 
tovnu^ the glistening pond. 

Whether dismayed by the fall of their chief — or whether it 
was that his dead body had hindered them from approaching 
the only place where the chasm could have been cleared at a 
leap — the stallions abandoned the pursuit ; and Mam-ice had the 
prairie to himself as he swept on after his fellow fugitive. 

He overtook her beyond the convergence of the fences on the 
shore of the pond. She had obeyed him in everything — except 
as to the closing of the gap. He found it open — the bars lying 
scattered over the ground. He found her still seated in the 
saddle, relieved firom all apprehension for his safety, and only 
trembling with a gratitude that longed to find expression in 
speech. 

The peril was passed. 



CHAPTER XYII. 

THE MUSTANG TRAP. 

No longer in dread of any danger, the young Creole looked in- 
terrogatively around her. 

There was a small lake — in Texan pliraseology a "pond" — 
with countless horsetracks visible along its shores, proving that 
the place was frequented by wild horses — their excessive number 
showing it to be a favourite watering place. There was a high 
rail fence — constructed so as to enclose the i)ond, and a portion 
of the contiguous prairie, with two diverging wings, carried far 
across the plain, forming a funnel-shaped approach to a gap; 
which, when its bars were up, completed an enclosure that no 
horse could either enter or escape from. 



92 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAK. 

" What is it for ? " inquired the lady, indicating the con- 
struction of split rails. 

" A mustang trap," said Maurice. 

" A mustang trap ? " 

" A contrivance for catching wild horses. They stray between 
the wings ; which, as you perceive, are carried far out upon the 
plain. The water attracts them ; or they are driven towards it 
by a band of mustangers who follow, and force them on through 
the gap. Once within the corral, there is no trouble in taking 
them. They are then lazoed at leisure." 

" Poor things ! Is it yours ? You are a mustanger ? You 
told us so ? " 

" I am ; but I do not hunt the wild horse in this way. I prefer 
being alone, and rarely consort with men of my calling. There- 
fore I could not make use of this contrivance, which requires at 
least a score of drivers. My weapon, if I may dignify it by the 
name, is this — the lazo." 

*' You use it with great skill ? I've heard that you do ; besides 
having myself witnessed the proof." 

" It is complimentary of you to say so. But you are mistaken. 
There are men on these prairies 'to the manner bom' — Mexicans 
— who regard, what you are pleased to caU skill, as sheer 
clumsiness." 

" Are you sure, Mr. Gerald, that your modesty is not prompting 
you to overrate your rivals ? I have been told the very opposite." 

"By whom?" 

" Your Mend, Mr. Zebulon Stump." 

" Ha — ha ! Old Zeb is but indifferent authority on the sub- 
ject of the lazo." 

"I wish I could throw the lazo," said the young Creole. 
** They tell me 'tis not a lady-like accomplishment. What 
matters — so long as it is innocent, and gives one a grati- 
fication ? " 

" Not lady- like I Surely 'tis as much so as archery, or skating ? 
I know a Ifidy who is very expert at it." 

" An American lady ? " 

" No ; she's Mexican, and lives on the Rio Grande ; but some- 
times comes across to the Leona — where she has relatives. 

" A young lady ? " 

" Yes. About your 'own age, I should think. Miss Poindexter." 

"Size?" 

" Not so tall as you." 

"But much prettier, of course? The Mexican ladies, I've 
heard, in the matter of good looks, far surpass us plain 
Americanos'^ 

" I think Creoles are not included in that category," was the 
reply, worthy of one whose lips had been in contact with the 
famed boidder of Blarney. 

" I wonder if I could ever learn to fling it? " pursued the 



THE MUSTANG TRAP. 93 

joung Creole, pretendiiig not to have been affected by the com- 
plimeniaiy remark. 'VAm I too old? I've been told that the 
MezicanB commence almost in childhood ; that that is why thej 
attain to such wonderM skill p " 

" Not at all," replied Maurice, encouragingly. " 'Tis possible, 
with a year or two's practice, to become a proficient lazoer. I, 
myself, have only been three years at it ; and " 

He paused, perceiving he was about to commit himself to a 
little boasting. 

** And you are now the most skilled in all Texas ? " said his 
companion, supplying the presumed finale of his speech. 

" No, no ! " lauglmigly rejoined he. " That is but a mistaken 
belief on the part of Zeb Stump, who judges my skill by com- 
parison, making use of his own as a standard." 

" Is it modesty ? " reflected the Creole. " Or is this man 
mocking me ? If I thought so, I should go mad ! " 

" Perhaps you are anxious to get back to your party ? " 
§ud Maurice, observing her abstracted air. "Your father 
nay be alarmed by your long absence? Your brother — your 
oousin " 

" Ah, true ! " she hurriedly rejoined, in a tone that betrayed 
either pique, or compunction. **I was not thinking of that. 
Thanks, sir, for reminding me of my duty. Let us go back ! " 

Again in the saddle, she gathered up her reins, and plied her 
tiny spur — both acts being performed with an air of languid 
reluctance, as if she would have preferred lingering a little longer 
in the " mustang trap." 

• «•••• 

Once more upon the prairie, Maurice conducted his protegee 
by the most direct route towards the spot where they had 
parted from the picnic party. 

Their backward way led them across a pecnliar tract of 
country — what in Texas is called a '' weed prairie," an ap]iella- 
tion bestowed by the early pioneei*s, who were not very choice 
in their titles. 

The Louisianian saw around her a vast garden of gay flowers, 
laid out in one grand parterre, whose borders were the blue circle 
of the horizon — a garden designed, planted, nurtured, by the 
hand of Nature. 

The most pleV>eian spirit cannot pass through such a scene 
without receiving an impression calculated to refine it. I've 
known the illiterate trapper — habitually blind to the beautiful — 
pause in the midst of his ''weed prairie," with the flowers 
rising breast high around him, gaze for tir while upon their gaudy 
corollas waving beyond the verge of his vision ; then continue 
his silent stride with a gentler feeling towards his fellow-man, 
and a firmer faith in the grandeur of his God. 

" Fardieu ! *tis very beautiful ! " exclaimed the enthusiastic 
Creole, reining iip as if by an involuntary' instinct. 



94 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAK. 

" Yon admire these wild scenes, Miss Poindexter ? " 

" Admire them ? Something more, sir ! I see aronnd me 
b11 that is bright and beantifhl in natnre : verdant turf, trees, 
flowers, all that we take snch pains to plant or cultiTate ; and 
such, too, as we never succeed in equalling. There seems nothing 
wanting to make this picture complete — *tis a park perfect in 
everything ! " 

" Except the mansion ? " 

" That would spoil it for me. Give me the landscape where 
there is not a house in sight — slate, chimney, or tile — ^to interfere 
with the outlines of the trees. Under their shadow could 
I live ; under their shadow let me " 

The word : " love " uppermost in her thoughts — ^was upon the 
tip of her tongue. 

She dexterously restrained herself from pronouncing it — 
changing it to one of very different signification — "die." 

It was cruel of the young Irishman not to tell her that 
she was speaking his own sentiments — repeating them to 
the very echo. To this was the prairie indebted for his 
presence. But for a kindred inclination — amounting almost 
to a passion — he might never have ' been known as Maurice 
the inustanger. 

The romantic sentiment is not satisfied with a " sham." It 
will soon consume itself, unless supported by the consciousness 
of reality. The mustanger would have been humiliated by the 
thought, that he chased the wild horse as a mere pastime — 
a pretext to keep him upon the prairies. At first, he might 
have condescended to make such an acknowledgment — but he 
had of late become thoroughly imbued ^dth the pride of the 
professional hunter. 

His reply might have appeared chillingly prosaic. 

" I fear, miss, you would soon tire of such a rude life — ^no 
roof to shelter you — no society — no " 

" i^nd you, sir ; how is it you have not grown tired of it ? 
If I have been correctly informed — ^your friend, Mr. Stump, is 
my authority — you've been leading this life for several years. 
Is it so ? " 

" Quite true : I have no other calling." 

" Indeed ! I wish I could say the same. I envy you your lot; 
I'm sure I could enjoy existence amid these beautiful scenes 
for ever and ever ! " 

" Alone ? Without companions ? Without even a roof to 
shelter you ? '' 

" I did not say that. But, you've not told me. How do you 
live y 1 1 Jive you a house 't " 

"It (Ir)es not desci-^'e such a high-sounding appellation," 
laughingly ro])lied the mustanger. " Shed would more correctly 
serve Ibr tlie description of my jacaU, which may be classed 
amon*^ the lowliest in the land." 



THE MUSTAXO TRAP. Vo 

" Where is it? Anywhere near where we've been to-day ? " 

" It is not very far from where we are now. A mile, perhaps. 
You see those tree-tops to the west ? They shade my hovel 
from the smi, and shelter it from the storm." 

'* Indeed ! How I should like to have a look at it ! A real 
nide hut, you say ? " 

" In that I have but spoken the truth." 

" Standing soKtary ? " 

*' I know of no odier within ten miles of it." 

*' Among trees, and picturesque ? " 

"That depends upon the eye that beholds it." 

" I should like to see it, and judge. Only a mile you say ? " 

" A mile there — ^the same to return — woidd be two." 

" That's nothing. It would not take us a score of minutes." 

" Should we not be trespassing on the patience of your people? " 

" On your hospitality, perhaps ? Excuse me, Mr. Gerald ! " 
continued the young lady, a slight shadow suddenly overcasting 
her countenance. " I did not think of it. Perhaps you do not 
life alone ? Some other shares your — jacal^ — as you call it ? " 

" Oh, yes ; I have a companion — one who has been with mo 
ever since I " 

The shadow became sensibly darker. 

Before the mustangor could finish his speech, his listener had 
pictured to herself a certain image, that might answer to the 
description of his companion : a girl of her own age — perhaps 
more inclining to emhonpoint — ^with a skin of chestnut brown ; 
eyes of almond shape, set piquantly oblique to the lines of the 
nose ; teeth of more than pearly purity ; a tinge of crimson upon 
the cheeks ; hair like Castro's tail ; beads and bangles around 
neck, arms, and ankles ; a short kirtlo elaborately embroidered ; 
mocassins covering small feet ; and fringed leggings, laced upon 
limbs of large development. Such were the style and equip- 
ments of the supposed companion, who had suddenly become 
outlined in the imagination of Louise Poindexter. 

*• Yom' fellow tenant of the jacale might not like being in- 
truded upon by visitors — more especially a stranger ? " 

"On the contrary, he's but too glad to see visitors at any 
time — whether strangers or acquaintances. My foster-brother is 
the last man to shun society ; of which, poor follow ! ho sees 
precious little on the Alamo." 

** Youi' lostcr-brother ? " 

"Yes. Plielim O'Neal by name — lilvo myself ii native of the 
Emerald Lsle, and sliire of Galway ; only ])c'rliaps speaking a 
little bettrr l)n)gue than mine.'' 

*• Oh I the Irish broi^iic. T slionld so like to \wi\r it spoken 
by a native of (lahvay. T am told that theirs is the riehest. 
Is it so, Mr. (jerald Y '' 

*' IJi'infr a Gal\vef,'ian mys(?lf, my judL^nient mifrht not be 
reliable ; but if you will condescend to accei)t Phelim's hospi- 



96 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

tality for half-an-honr, he will, no donbt,'give you an oppor- 
tunity of judging for yourself." 

" I should be delighted. Tis something so new. Let papa 
and the rest of them wait. There are plenty of ladies without 
me ; or the gentlemen may amuse themselves by tracing up our 
tracks. 'Twill be as good a horse hunt as they are likely to 
have. Now, sir, I'm ready to accept your hospitality." 

"There's not much to offer you, 1 fear. Phelim has been 
several days by himself, and as he's but an indifferent hunter, 
his larder is likely to be low. 'Tis fortunate you had finished 
luncheon before the stampede.** 

It was not Phelim's larder that was leading Louise Poindexter 
out of her way, nor yet the desire to listen to his Connemara pro- 
nunciation. It was not curiosity to look at the jacale of the 
mustanger ; but a feeling of a far more irresistible kind, to which 
she was yielding, as if she believed it to be her fate ! 

She paid a visit to the lone hut, on the Alamo ; she entered 
under its roof ; she scanned with seeming interest its singular 
penates ; and noted, with pleased surprise, the books, writing 
materials, and other chattels that betokened the refinement of 
its owner ; she listened with apparent delight to the palthogue 
of the Connemara man, who called her a "coleen bawn ; " sho 
partook of Phelim's hospitality — condescendingly tasting of 
everything offered, except that which was most urgently pressed 
upon her, " a dhrap of the crayther, drawn fresh from the dimmy- 
jan ;" and finally made her departure from the spot, apparently 
in the highest spirits. 

Alas ! her delight was short-lived : lasting only so long as it 
was sustained by the excitement of the novel adventui^e. As 
she recrossed the flower prairie, she found time for making 
a variety of reflections ; and there was one that chilled her to 
the very core of her heart. 

Was it the thought that she had been acting wTongly in 
keeping her father, her brother, and friends in suspense about 
lier safety? Or had she become conscious of plaj-ing a part 
open to the suspicion of being unfeminine ? 

Not either. The cloud that darkened her brow in the midst 
of tliat blossoming brightness, was caused by a different, and 
far more distressing, reflection. During all that day, in the 
journey from the fort, after overtaking her in the chase, in the 
pursuit while p'otecting her, lingering by her side on the shore 
of the lake, returning across the prairie, under his own humble 
roof — in short eveiyAvhere — her companion had only been polite 
— had only behaved as a gentleman ! 



97 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

JEALOUSY UPON THE TRAIL. 

Of the twoscore rcBcners, avIio had Htartecl in pursuit of tlio 
mnawBrj, bat few followed far. Having lost sight of the wikl 
maarcs, tiie mustang, and the mustangcr, they began t-o lose 
rigiht of one another; and before long bt^eamc dispersed npnn the 
prairie — going single, in couples, or in gi-oups of three and 
four together. Most of Uiem, unused to tracking up a trail, 
BOOH strayed from that taken by the manada ; bninching oil* 
upon others, made, perhaps, by tlie same drove upon some pre- 
^lons stampede. 

The dragoon escort, in charge of a young officer — a fresh 
fledgling fi?om West Point — ran astniy uj»on one of these raniiti- 
cations, carrying the hindmost of the field along with it. 

It was a rolling prairie through which the pursuit was con- 
ducted, here and there intersected by straggling belts of brush- 
wood. These, with the inequalities of the surface, soon hid the 
Tarious pursuing parties from one another; and in twenty 
zninutes after the start, a bird looking from the heavens above, 
might have beheld half a hundi-ed horsemen, distributed into 
half a score of groups — apparently having started from a com- 
mon centre — spurring at full speeil towards every ([uai^ter of the 
compass! 

But one was going in the n'ght dii'ection — a solitary in- 
dividnal, mounted upon a large stmng-limbed chestnut horse ; 
that, without any claim to elegance of shape, was proving the 
possession both of sjiecd and bottom. The blue frock-coat, of 
half militarj' cut, and fonigo caji of corivsponding cohair, wci-o 
distinctive articles of divss habitually woni bv the ex-ciiptain 
of volunteer cavalry — Cassias Calhoun. lie it was who 
directed the chestimt on the true tniil : while witli whip and 
spur he was stimulating the animal to cxtmonliiiary eH'oi'ts. 
He was himself stinnihited by athouglit -shari)as his own s])urH 
— tluit caused liim to concentrate all his ener',ne.s up(»u tfie 
object in hand. 

Like a hungry hound he was laying his head along the trail, 
in hojK.»s of an issue? that might reward him ior his exertions. 

Wliat that issue was he had but vjiguely conceive<i ; but 
an occasional glance towards his holsters — from which pn - 
truded the butts of a brace of pistols -told of some sinister 
design th.at was shai)ing itM'lf in liis soul. 

P 



96 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

But for a circumstance that assisted him, he might, like the 
others, have gone astray. He had the advantage of them, however, 
in being guided by two shoe-tracks he had seen before. One, 
the larger, he recollected with a painful distinctness. He had 
seen it stamped upon a charred surfece, amid the ashes of a 
burnt prairie. Yielding to an undefined instinct, he had made 
a note of it in his memory, and now remembered it. 

Thus directed, the ci-devant captain arrived among the copses, 
and rode into the glade where the spotted mustang had been 
pulled up in such a mysterious manner. Hitherto his analjsis 
had been easy enough. At this point it became conjecture. 
Among the hoof-prints of the wild mares, the shoe-tracks were 
still seen, but no longer going at a gallop. The two aniniala 
thus distinguished must have been halted, and standing* in juxta- 
position. 

Whither next ? Along the trail of the manada, there was no 
imprint of iron ; nor elsewhere ! The surface on all sides was 
hard, and strewn with pebbles. A horse going in rude gallop, 
might have indented it ; but not one passing over it at a tran- 
quil pace. 

And thus had the spotted mustang and blood bay parted 
firom that spot. They had gone at a walk for some score 
yards, before starting on their final gallop towards the mustang 
trap. 

The impatient pursuer was puzzled. He rode round and 
round, and along the trail of the wild mares, and back again, 
without discovering the direction that had been taken by either 
of the ridden horses. 

He was beginning to feel something more than surprise, when 
the sight of a solitary horseman advancing along the traQ 
interrupted his uncomfortable conjectures. 

It was no stranger who was drawing near. The colossal 
figure, clad in coarse habiliments, bearded to the buttons of his 
blanket coat, and bestriding the most contemptible looking 
steed that could have been found within a hundred miles of the 
£pot, was an old acquaintance. Cassius Calhoun knew Zebulon 
Stump, and Zeb Stump knew Cash Calhoun, long before either 
had set foot upon the prairies of Texas. 

" You hain't seed nuthin' o' the young lady, hev ye, Mister 
Cal-hoon ? " inquired the hunter, as he rode up, with an un- 
usual impressiveness of manner. " No, ye hain't," he continued, 
as if deducing his inference from the blank looks of the other. 

" Dog-gone my cats ! I wonder what the h hev becomed o' 

her ! Kewrious, too ; sech a rider as she air, ter let the dumed 
goat o* a thing run away wi* her. Wal ! thur*s not much danger 
to be recprehended. The mowstanger air putty sartin to throw 
his rope aroun* the critter, an' that '11 put an eend to its capers. 
"VVhy hev ye stopped hyur? " 

" I'm puzzled about the direction they've taken. Their tracks 



JBALOUST UPON THE TIUIL. 99 

show th07 Ve been halted here ; but I can see the shod hoofs no 
ferther." 

" Whoo ! whoo ! ynr right, Mister Cashus ! They hev been 
halted hjnr ; an' been clost thegither too. They ham't gone no 
farther on the trail o' the wild maars. Sartin they hain't. Whar 
ihea?" 

The speaker scanned the surface of the plain with an inter- 
rogative glance ; as if there, and not from Cassius Calhoun, 
expecting an answer to his question. 

"I cannot see their tracks anywhere," replied the ex- 
eaptain. 

"No, kan't ye ? I kin though. Lookee hyur ! Don*t ye see 
them thur bruises on the grass ? *' 

"No." 

" Dum it ! thur plain es the nose on a Jew's face. Thur's a 
big shoe, an' a little un clost aside o' it. Thet's the way they've 
nd offj which show that they liain't foUered the wild nmars no 
&rther than h^nir. We'd better keep on arter them ? " 
" By all means ! " 

Without farther parley, Zeb started along the new trail; 
which, though still undiscemible to the eye of the other, was to 
Um as conspicuous as he had figuratively declared it. 

In a little while it became visible to his companion — on their 
arrival at the place where the fugitives had once more urged 
their horses into a gallop to escape from the cavallada, and 
where the shod tracks again deeply indented the turf. 

Shortly after their tr^ was again lost — or would have been 
to a scrutiny less keen than that of Zeb Stump — among the 
hundreds of other hoof-marks seen now upon the sward. 

'* SLilloo !" exclaimed the old hunter, in some surprise at the 
now sign. " What's been a doin' hyur ? This air some'at kew- 
rious." 

" Only the tracks of the wild mares ! " suggested Calhoun. 
"They appear to have made a circuit, and come round again ? " 

" If they hev it's been arter the others rud past them. The 
chase must a changed sides, I reck'n." 

" What do you mean, Mr. Stump ? " 

" That i'stead o' them gallupin' arter the maars, the maars 
hev been gallupin' arter them." 

" How can you t«ll that ? " 

" Don't ye see that the shod tracks air kivered by them o' the 
maars? Maars — no ! By the 'tumal airthquake ! — them's 
not maar-tracks. They air a inch bigger. Thur's been studs 
this way — a hul cavayurd o' them. Geehosofat ! I hope they 
hain't " 

"Haven't what?" 

"Gone arter Spotty. If they liev, then thur will be danger 
to Miss Peintdexter. Come on ! " 

Without waiting for a rejoinder, the hunter started off at a 

F 2 



100 THE HEADLESS HOBSEHAK. 

sliainbliiig trot, followed hj Calhonn, who kept calling to him 
for an explanation of his ambiguous words. 

Zeb did not deign to offer any — excusing himself by a back- 
ward sweep of the hand, which seemed to say, " Do not bother 
me now : I am busy." 

For a time he appeared absorbed in taking up the trail of the 
shod horses — not so easily done, as it was in places entirely 
obliterated by the thick trampling of the stallions. He sue* 
ceeded in making it out by piecemeal — still going on at a trot. 

It was not till he had arrived within a hundred yards of 
the arroyo that the serious shadow disappeared from his face ; 
and, checking the pace of his mare, he vouchsafed the explana- 
tion once more demanded from him. 

" Oh ! that was the danger," said Calhoun, on hearing the 
explanation. " How do you Imow they have escaped it ? " 

"Lookthur!" 

" A dead horse ! Freshly killed, he appears ? What does that 
prove?" 

" That the mowstanger hes killed him." 

" It frightened the others off, you think, and they followed 
no further?" 

" They follered no further ; but it wa'n't adzackly thet es 
scared *em off. Thur's the thing as kep them from follerin'. Ole 
Hickory, what a jump ! " 

The speaker pointed to the arroyo, on the edge of which both 
riders had now arrived. 

' You don't suppose they leaped it ? " said Calhoun. " Im- 

ile." 
' Leaped it clur as the crack o' a rifle. Don't ye see thur 
toe-marks, both on this side an' the t'other ? An' Miss Peint- 
dexter fust, too! By the jumpin' Geehosofat, what a gurl 
she air sure enuf ! They must both a jumped afore th# 
stellyun war shot, else they kedn't a got at it. Thur's no 
other place whar a hoss ked go over. Geeroozalem ! wa'n't it 
ounnin' o* the mowstanger to throw the stud in his tracks, jest 
in the very gap ? " 

" You think that he and my cousin crossed here together ? " 

"Not adzackly thegither," explained Zeb, without suspecting 
the motive of the interrogator}-. " As I*ve sayed. Spotty went 
fust. You see the critter's tracks yonner on t'other side ? " 

" I do." 

" Wal — don't ye see they air kivered wi' them o' the mow- 
stanger's hoss ? " 

" True— true." 

" As for the stellyuns, they hain't got over — ne'er a one o* the 
hul cavayurd. I kin see how it liez l>een. The young fellur 
pulled up on t'other side, an' sent a bullet back inter this brute's 
karkidge. 'Twar jest like closin' the gap ahint him ; an' the 
pursooers, seein' it shet, guv up the chase, an' scampered off in 



JEALOUSY UPON THE TRAIL. 101 

% different direckshnn. Thar*s the way thej Lev gone— np the 
side o' the guUy ! '* 

" They may hare crossed at some other place, and continiied 
the pursuit ? " 

" If they dnd, they'd hev ten mile to go, afore they ked git 
hack hyur — five np, an' five back agin. Not a bit o' that, Mister 
Cal-hoon. Ye needn't be nneezy 'bout Miss Lewaze bein' 
porsooed by them any farther. Arter the jump, she's rud off 
along wi' the mowstanger — ^both on 'em as quiet as a kupple 
o' lambs. Thur wa'n't no danger then ; an' by this time, they 
onghter be dog-goned well on torst rejeinin' the people as 
stayed by the purvision waggon." 

" Come on ! " cried Calhoun, exhibiting as much impatience as 
when he believed his cousin to be in serious peril. *' Come on, 
Mr. Stump ! Let us get back as speedily as possible ! " 

"Not so fast, if you pleeze," rejoined Zeb, permitting himself 
to slide leisurely out of his saddle, and then drawing his knife 
from his sheath. " I'll only want ye to wait for a matter o' 
ten minutes, or thereabout." 

** Wait ! For what ? " peevishly inquired Calhoun. 

" Till I kin strip the hide off o' this hyur sorrel. It appear to 
be a skin o' the fust qualerty ; an' onghter fetch a five-dollar bill 
in the settlements. Five-dollar bills ain't picked up every day 
on these hyur parayras." 

" D n the skin ! " angrily ejaculated the impatient South- 
erner. " Come on, an' leave it ! " 

" Ain't a goin' to do anjrthin' o' the sort," coolly responded 
the hunter, as he drew the sharp edge of his blade along the 
belly of the prostrate steed. " You Ion go on if ye like. Mister 
Cal-hoon ; but Zeb Stump don't start till he packs the hide o' 
this hyur stellvun on the krupper o' his old maar. Thet he 
don't." 

" Come, Zeb ; what's the use of talking about my going back 
by myself? You know I can't find my way ? " 

" That air like enough. I didn't say ye ked." 

" Look here, you obstinate old case ! Time's precious to me 
just at this minute. It '11 take you a full half-hour to skin the 
horse." 

"Not twenty minutes." 

"Well, say twenty minutes. Now, twenty minutes are of 
more importance to me than a five- dollar bill. You say that's 
the value of the skin ? Leave it behind ; and I agree to make 
good the amount." 

" Wal — that air dumed gin'rous, I admit — dog-goned 
gin'rous. But I mussent except yur offer. It 'ud be a mean 
trick o' me — mean enuf for a yeller-bellied Mexican — to take 
yur money for sech a sarvice as thet : the more so es I ain't 
bjO stranger to ye, an' myself a goin' the same road. On the t'other 
hand, I kan't afford to lose the five dollars' worth o' hoss-hide, 



102 THB HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

which nd be rotten as punk — to say nnthin' o' it's bein' tored 
into skreeds by the buzasarts and coyoats — afore I moat find a 
chance to knm this way agin." 

" 'Tis very provoking ! What am I to do ? " 

" You air in a hurry ? Wal — I*m sorry to discommerdate ye- 
But — stay ! Thur's no reezun for yur waitin* on me. Thiur's 
nnthin' to hinder ye from findin' yur way to the waggon. Ye see 
that tree stannin' up agin the sky-line — the tall poplar yonner?" 

"I do." 

" Wal ; do you remember ever to hev seed ' it afore ? It air 
a queery lookin' plant, appearin* more like a church steeple than 
a tree." 

"Yes — ^yes ! " said Calhoun. " Now you've pointed it out, I 
do remember it. We rode close past it while in pursuit of the 
wild mares ? " 

" You dud that very thing. An' now, as ye know it, what air 
to hinder you from ridin' past it agin ; and follering the trail o* 
the maars back'ard ? That ud bring ye to yur startin'-peint ; 
where, ef I ain't out o' my reck'nin', ye'U find yur cousin, Misa 
Peintdexter, an' the hul o' yur party enjeying themselves wi' that 
'ere French stuff*, they call shampain. I hope they'll stick to it^ 
and spare the Monongaheela — of which licker I shed like to hev 
a triflin' suck arter I git back myself." 

Calhoun had not waited for the wind-up of this characteristic 
speech. On the instant after recognizing the tree, he had struck 
the spurs into the sides of his chestnut, and gone off at a gallop,, 
leaving old Zeb at liberty to secure the coveted skin. 

" Greeroozalem ! " ejaculated the hunter, glancing up, and 
noticing the quick unceremonious departure. "It don't take 
much o' a head-piece to tell why he air in sech a dumed hurry. 
I ain't myself much guv torst guessin' ; but if I ain't dog- 
gonedly mistaken it air a clur case o' jellacy on the trail ! " 
****** 

Zeb Stump was not astray in his conjecture. It was jealousy 
that urged Cassius Calhoun to take that hasty departure — 
black jealousy, that had first assumed shape in a kindred spot — 
in the midst of a charred prairie ; that had been every day 
growing stronger from circumstances observed, and others 
imagined ; that was now intensified so as to have become his 
prevailing passion. 

The presentation and taming of the spotted • mustang ; the 
acceptance of that gift, characteristic of the giver, and gratify- 
ing to the receiver, who had made no effort to conceal her grati- 
fication ; these, and other circumstances, acting upon the alx^sady 
excited fancy of Cassius Calhoun, had conducted him to the 
belief: that in Maurice the mustanger he would find his most 
powerftil rival. 

The inferior social position of the horse-hunter should have 
hindered him from having such belief, or even a suspicion. 



JEAL0U8T VPQM THE TRAIL. 103 

Perhape it might have done so, had he been less intimately 
acgnainted with the character of Louise Poindexter. But, 
knowing her as he did — associating with her from the hour o£ 
childhood — ^thoroughly understanding her independence of spirit 
— ^the hraverie of her disposition, bordering upon very reckless- 
ness — ^he could place no reliance on the mere idea of gentility. 
With most women this may be depended upon as a barrier, if 
not to mSsalUance, at least to absolute imprudence ; but in the 
impure mind of Cassius Calhoun, while contemplating the pro- 
bable conduct of his cousin, there was not even this feeble 
support to lean upon ! 

Chafing at the occurrences of the day — to him crookedly 
inanspicious — he hurried back towards the spot where the pic-nic 
kad been held. The steeple-like tree guided him back to the 
trail of the manada; and beyond that there was no danger 
of straying. He had only to return along the path already 
tiodden by him. 

He rode at a rapid pace — faster than was relished by his now 
tired steed — stimiilated by bitter thoughts, which for more than 
ID hour were his sole companions — their bitterness more keenly 
Mt in the tranquil solitude that surrounded liim. 

He was but little consoled by a sight that promised other 
companionship: that of two persons on horseback, riding in 
advance, and going in the same direction as himself, upon the 
same path. Though he saw but their backs — and at a long dis- 
tance ahead — there was no mistaking the identity of either. 
They were the two individuals that had brought that bitterness 
upon his spirit. 

Like himself they were returning upon the trail of the wild 
mares ; which, when first seen, they had just struck, arriving 
upon it from a lateral path. Side by side — their saddles almost 
chafing against each other — to all appearance absorbed in a 
conversation of intense interest to both, th^y saw not the solitary 
horseman approaching them in a diagonal direction. 

Apparently less anxious than he to rejoin the party of pick- 
nickers, they were advancing at a slow pace — the lady a little 
inclining to the rear. 

Their proximity to one another — their attitudes in the saddle 
— their obvious inattention to outward objects — the snail-like 
pace at which they were proceeding — these, along with one or 
two other slighter circumstances observed by Calhoun, combined 
to make an impression on hLs mind — or ratlier to strengthen 
one already made — that almost drove liini mad. 

To gallop rapidly up, and rudely terminate the icte-a-tcley 
was but the natural instinct of the chivahic Southerner. In 
obedience to it he spitefully plied the spur ; and once more 
forced his jaded chestnut into an unwilling canter. 

In a few seconds, however, he slackened pace — as if changing 
his determination. The sound of his horse's hoofs had not yet 



106 



CHAPTER XIX. 

WHISKY AND WATER. 

In the embryo city springing up tinder the protection of 
Fort Inge, the " hotel " was flie most conspicnons bnilding. 
This is but the normal condition of every Texan town — whether 
new or founded forty years ago ; and none are older, except the 
sparse cities of Hispano-Mexican origin — where ihe presidio and 
convent" took precedence, now surpassed by, and in some in- 
stances transformed into, the " tavern." 

The Fort Inge establishment, though the largest building in 
the place, was, nevertheless, neither very grand nor imposing. 
Its exterior had but little pretence to architectural style. It waa 
a structure of hewn logs, having for ground-plan the letter X 
according to the grotesque alphabet — ^the shaiik being used for 
eating and sleeping rooms, while the head was a single apart- 
ment entirely devoted to drinking — smoking and eapectoratin^ 
included. This last was the bar-room, or " saloon." 

The sign outside, swinging from the trunk of a post-oak, 
that had been pollarded some ten feet above the ground, ex- 
hibited on both sides the likeness of a well known military 
celebrity — the hero of that quarter of the globe — Greneral Za- 
chariah Taylor. It did not need looking at the lettering beneath 
to ascertain the name of the hotel. Under the patronage of 
such a portrait it could only be called " Rough aistd Ready." 

There was a touch of the apropos about this designation. 
Outside things appeared rough enough ; while inside, especially 
if you entered by the " saloon," there was a readiness to meet 
you half way, with a mint julep, a sherry cobbler, a gin sling, or 
any other mixed drink known to trans-Mississippian tipplers — 
provided always that you were ready -with the picayunes to pay 
for them. 

The saloon in question would not call for description, had 
you ever travelled in the Southern, or South- Western, States of 
America. If so, no Lethean draught could ever efface from 
your memory tho " bar-room " of the hotel or tavern in which 
you have had the unhappiiiess to sojoum. The counter extend- 
ing longitudinally by the side ; tho shelved wall behind, with 
its rows of decanters and bottles, containing liquors, of not only 
all the colours of the prism, but every possible combination 
of them ; the eloj^nt young follow, standing or sidling between 
counter and shelves, ycleped " clerk " — don't call him a " bar- 
keeper," or you may got a decanter in your teeth — this elegant 
young gentleman, in blouse of blue cottonad€, or white hnen 



WHISKY AKD WATEB. 107 

coat, or maybe in his shirt sleeves — the latter of finest linen 
and laoe— raffled, in the year of onr Lord eighteen hundred 
and fifty— this elegant young gentleman, who, in mixing you a 
sherry cobbler, can look yon straight in the face, talk to you the 
politics of the day, while the ice, and the wine, and the water, 
are passing from glass to glass, like an iris sparkling behind 
his shoulders, or an aureole surrounding his perfumed { head ! 
Traveller through the Southern States of America ! you cannot 
fiul to remember him. 

If so, my words will recall him, along with his surround- 
ings — the saloon in which he is the presiding administrator, 
witfi its shelves and coloured decanters ; its counter ; its floor 
sprinkled with white sand, at times littered with cigar stumps, 
and the brown asterisks produced by expectoration — its odonr 
of musk, absinthe, and lemon-peel, in wliich seem to luxuriate 
the black fly, the blue-bottle, and the sharp- tongued mosquito. 
AH these must be sharply outlined on the retina of your 
nemory. 

The hotel, or tavern, " Bough and Ready," though difiering 
but little from other Texan houses of entertainment, had some 
points in particular. Its proprietor, instead of being a specula- 
live Yankee, was a German — in this part of the world, as else- 
where, found to be the best purveyors of food. He kept his own 
bar ; so that on entering the saloon, instead of the elegant young 
gentleman with ruffled shirt and odorous chevelure, your " liquor" 
was mixed for you by a staid Teuton, who looked as sober as 
if he never tasted — notwithstanding the temptation of whole- 
sale price — the delicious drinks served out to his customers. 
Oberdoffer was the name he had imported with liim from his 
&therland; transformed by his Texan customers into "Old 
Duffer." 

There was one other peculiarity about the bar-room of the 
" Bough and Ready," though it scarce deserved to be so desig- 
nated; since it was not uncommon elsewhere. As already 
stated, the building was shaped like a capital T ; ^^e saloon re- 
presenting the head of the letter. The counter extended along 
one side, that contiguous to the shank ; while at each end was. 
a door that opened outward into the public square of the inci- 
pient city. 

This arrangement had been designed to promote the circulation 
of the air — a matter of primary importance in an atmosphere 
where the themiometer for half the year stands at 90® in the 
shade. 

The hotels of Texas or the South-Wcstem States — I may say 
every part of the American Union — serve the double pui-poso 
of exchange and club-house. Indeed, it is owing to the cheap 
accommodation thus afforded — often of the most convenient kind 
— that the latter can scarce be said to exist. 

Even in the larger cities of the Atlantic States the " club" is 



108 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

by no means a necessity. The moderate charges of the hotels, 
along with their excellent cuisine and elegant accommodations, 
circumscribe the prosperity of this institution ; which in America 
is, and ever must be, an unhealthy exotic. 

The remark is still more true of the Southern and South- 
Western cities; where the "saloon" and "bar- room" are the 
chief places of resort and rendezvous. 

The company, too, is there of a ^ore miscellaneous character. 
The proud planter does not disdain — for he does not dai'e — ^to 
drink in the same room with the "poor white trash ;" often as 
proud as himself. 

There is no peasant in that part of the world — least of all in 
the state called Texas ; and in the saloon of " Rough and Ready" 
might often be seen assembled representatives of every class 
and calling to be met with among the settlements. 

Perhaps not upon any occasion since " Old Duffer" had hung 
out the sign of his tavern, was he favoured with a larger com- 
pany, or served more customers across his counter, than upon 
that night, after the return of the horse-hunting party to lort 
Inge. 

With the exception of the ladies, almost every one who had 
taken part in the expedition seemed to think that a half-hour 
spent at the " Rough and Ready" was necessary as a " night- 
<5ap" before retiring to rest ; and as the Dutch clock, quaintly 
ticking among the coloured decanters, indicated the hour of 
eleven, one after another — officers of the Fort — ^planters living 
near along the river — sutlers — commissariat contractors — 
"sportsmen" — and others who might be called nondescripts 
— came dropping in ; each as he entei*ed marching straight up 
to the counter, calling for his favourite drink, and then falling 
back to converse with some group already occupying the floor. 

One of these groups was conspicuous. It consisted of some 
eight or ten individuals, half of them in uniform. Among the 
latter were the three officers already introduced ; the captain 
.of infantry, and the two lieutenants — Hancock of the dragoons, 
and Grossman of the mounted rifles. 

Along with these was an officer older than any of them, also 
higher in authority, as could be told by the embroidery on 
his shoulder-strap, that proclaimed him of the rank of major. 
Ashe was the only "Held officer" at Fort Inge, it is unneces- 
sary to say he was the commandant of the cantonment. 

These gentlemen were conversing as freely as if all were 
subalterns of equal rank — the subject of the discourse being the 
incidents of the day. 

" Now tell us, major ! " said Hancock : " you must know. 
Where did the girl gallop to ? " 

"How should I know?" answered the officer appealed to. 
"Ask her cousin, Mr. Cassius Calhoun." 

" We have asked him, but without getting any satisfaction. 



WHISKY AND WATER. 109 

It's clear he knows no more than we. He only met them on the 
retorn — and not veiy &r from the place where we had onr 
biyonac. They were gone a precious long time ; and judging 
by the sweat of their horses they must have had a hard ride of 
it They might have heen to the Rio Grande, for that matter, 
and beyond it." 

'* Did you notice Calhoun as he came back ? " inquired the 
captain of infantiy. *' There ivns a scowl upon his face that 
betokened some very xmpleasant emotion within his mind, I 
should say." 

" He did look rather unhappy,*' replied the major ; " but surely, 
Captain Sloman, you don't attribute it to ? " 

" Jealousy. I do, and nothing else." 

" What ! of Maurice the mustanger ? Poh — poh ! impossible 
— at least, very improbable." 

*' And why, major ? " 

" My dear Sloman, Louise Poindexter is a lady, and Maurice 
Gerald " 

"May be a gentleman for aught that is known to Ihe con- 
trary." 

" Pshaw ! " BcomfuUy exclaimed Crossman ; "a trader in 
horses ! The major is right — the thing's improbable — impos- 
sible." 

" Ah, gentlemen ! " pursued the officer of infantry, with a 
significant shake of the head. " You don't know Miss Poin- 
dexter, so well as I. An eccentric young lady — to say the least 
of her. You may have already observed that for yourselves." 

" Come, come, Sloman ! " said the major, in a bantering way ; 
" you are inclined to be talking scandal, I fear. That would be 
a scandal. Perhaps you are yourself interested in Miss Poin- 
dexter, notwithstanding your pretensions to be considered a 
Joseph ? Now, I could understand your being jealous if it were 
handsome Hancock here, or Crossman — supposing him to be 
disengaged. But as for a common mustanger — poh — poh ! " 

" He's an Irishman, major, this mustanger ; and if he bo what 

I have some reason to suspect " 

"Whatever ho be," interrupted the major, casting a side 
glance towards the door, "he's there to answer for himself; 
and as he's a sufficiently plain-spoken fellow, you may learn 
from him all about the matter that seems to be of so much in- 
terest to you." 

" I don't think you will," muttered Sloman, as Hancock and 
two or three others turned tr)wards the new comer, with the 
design of curry iug out the major's suggestion. 

Silently advancing across the sanded floor, the mustanger 
had taken his stand at an unoccupied space in front of the 
counter. 

"A glass of whisky and water, if you please?" was the 
modest request with which he saluted the landlord. 



110 THE HEADLESS HOBSSMAK. 

" Vifiky tmd vacbter ! " echoed the latter, without any show of 
eagerness to wait upon his new guest. " Ya, woe, visky imd 
TBchter ! It ish two picayunsh the glass." 

" I was not inquiring the price," replied the mustanger, " I 
asked to be served with a glass of whisky and water. Have 
you got any ? " 

" Yesh — ^yesh," responded the Grerman, rendered obsequious by 
the sharp rejoinder. " Plenty — plenty of visky und vachter. 
Here it ish." 

While his simple potation was being served out to him, 
Maurice received nods of recognition fix)m the officers, return- 
ing them with a free, but modest air. Most of them knew him 
personally, on account of his business relations with the Fort. 

They were on the eve of interrogating him — ^as the major had 
suggested — when the entrance of still another individual caused 
them to suspend their design. 

The new comer was Cassius Calhoun. In his presence it 
would scarce have been delicacy to investigate the subject any 
ftirther. 

Advancing with his customary swagger towards the mixed 
group of military men and civilians, Calhoun saluted them as 
one who had spent the day in their company, and had been 
absent only for a short interval. If not absolutely intoxicated, 
it could be seen that the ex- officer of volunteers was under the 
influence of drink. The unsteady sparkle of his eyes, the un- 
natural pallor upon his forehead — still further clouded by two 
or three tossed tresses that fell over it — with the somewhat 
grotesque set of his forage cap — told that he had been taking 
wine beyond the limits of wisdom. 

" Come, gentlemen ! " cried he, addressing himself to the 
major's party, at the same time stepping up to the counter ; 
" let's hit the waggon a crack, or old Dunder-und-blitzen behind 
the bar will say we 're wasting his lights. Drinks all round ! 
What say you ? " 

" Agreed — agreed ! " replied several voices. 

"You, major?" 

" With pleasure. Captain Calhoun." 

According to universal custom, the intended imbibers fell into 
line along the counter, each calling out the name of the drink 
most to his liking at the moment. 

Of these were ordered almost as many kinds as there were 
individuals in the party ; Calhoun himself shouting out — " Brown 
sherry for me ; " and immediately adding — " with a dash of 
bitters." 

" Prandy und pitters, you calls for, Mishter Calhoon ? " said 
the landlord, as he leant obsequiously across the counter towards 
the reputed partner of an extensive estate. 

" Certainly, you stupid Dutchman ! I said brown sherry, 
didn't I?" 



WHI8KT AVD WATIB. Ill 



"All TigblSy mein herr; all rights! Prandy nnd pitter 
prandy mid pitters," repeated the Oerman Boniface, as he has- 
tened to place the decanter before his ill-mannered guest. i^HiM 
With the large accession of the major's party, to several others 
tbeeadj in the act of imbibing, the whole front of the long 
coimt^ became occupied — ^with scarce an inch to spare. 

Apparendy by accident — though it may have been design on 
the part of Calhoun — he was the outermcxst man on the extreme 
ri^t of those who had responded to his invitation. 

This brought him in juxtaposition with Maurice Grerald, who 
alone — as regarded boon companionship— was quietly drinking 
his whisky and water, and smoking a cigar he had just lighted. 
The two were back to back — neither having taken any notice 
of the other. 
'' A toast ! " cried Calhoun, taking his glass from the counter. 
** Let us have it ! " responded several voices. 
<< America for the Americans, and confusion to all foreign 
interlopers— especially the d — d Irish ! '* 

On delivering the obnoxious sentiment, he staggered back a 
pace ; which brought his body in contact with that of the mus- 
tanger — at the moment standing with the glass raised to his 
lips. 

The collision caused the spilling of a portion of the whisky 
and water ; which fell over the mustanger's breast. 

Was it an accident? No one believed it was — even for a 
moment. Accompanied by such a sentiment the act could only 
have been an affront intended and premeditated. 

All present expected to see the insulted man spring instantly 
upon his insulter. They were disappointed, as well as surprised, 
at the manner in which the mustanger seemed to take it. There 
were some who even &ncied he was about to submit to it. 

" If he does," whispered Hancock in Sloman's ear, " he 
ought to be kicked out of the room." 

" Don't you be alarmed about that," responded the infantry 
officer, in the same totto voce. " You'll find it different. I'm 
not given to betting, as you know ; but I'd lay a month's pay 
upon it the mustanger don't back out ; and another, that Mr. 
Cassius Calhoun will find him an ugly customer to deal with, 
although just now he seems more concerned about his fine 
shirt, than the insult put upon him. Odd devil ho is ! " 

AVhile this whispering was beinpf camed on, the man to whom 
it related was still standing by [the bar — to use a hackneyed 
phrase, " tlie observed of all observers." 

Having deposited his glass upon the counter, he had drawn a 
silk handkerchief from his pocket, and was ^\^ping from his 
embroidered shirt bosom the defilement of the spilt whi8k}^ 

There was an imperturbable coolness about the action, scarce 
compatible with the idea of cowardice ; and those who had 
doubted him perceived that they had made a mistake, and that 



112 THE HBADLB88 HOBmiAK. 

there was something to come. In silence they awaited the 
development. 

They had not long to wait. The whole affair — speculations 
and whisperings included — did not occupy twenty seconds of 
time ; and then did the action proceed, or ^e speech which was 
likely to usher it in. 

*^ /am an Irinhman," said the mustanger, as he returned his 
handkerchief to the place from which he had taken it. 

Simple as the rejoinder may have appeared, and long delayed 
as it had been, there was no one present who mistook its 
meaning. If the hunter of wild horses had tweaked the nose 
of Cassius Calhoun, it would not have added emphasis to that 
acceptance of his challenge. Its simplicity but proclaimed the 
serious determination of the acceptor. 

" You ? " scornfully retorted Calhoun, turning round, and 
standing with his arms akimbo. " You ? " he continued, with 
his eye measuring the mustanger from head to foot, " you an 
Irishman ? Great God, sir, I should never have thought so ! I 
should have taken you for a Mexican, judging by your rig, and 
the elaborate stitching of your shirt." 

" I cau*t perceive how my rig should concern you, Mr. Cassius 
Calhoun ; and as you've done my shirt no service by spilling 
half my liquor upon it, I shall take the liberty of unstarching 
yours in a similar fashion." 

So saying, the mustanger took up his glass ; and, before 
the ex-captain of volunteers could duck his head, or get out 
of the way, the remains of the mixed Monongahela were 
" swilled" into his face, sending him off into a fit of alternate 
sneezing and coughing that appeared to afford satisfaction to 
more than a majority of the bystanders. 

The murmur of approbation was soon suppressed. The cir- 
cumstances were not such as to call for speech ; and the ex- 
clamations that accompanied the act were succeeded by a hush 
of silence. All saw that the quarrel could not be otherwise 
than a serious one. The affair must end in a fight. No power 
on earth could pi^event it from coming to that conclusion. 



CHAPTER XX. 

AN UNSAFE POSITION. 



On receiving the alcoholic douche, Calhoun had clutched his 
six-shooter, and drawn it from its holster. He only waited to 
get the whisky out of liis eyes before advancing upon his 
adversary. 



AN UNSAFE POSITION. 113 

The mnstanger, anticipating this action, had armed himself 
-with a similar weapon, and stood ready to return the fire of his 
antagonist — shot for shot. 

The more timid of the spectators had already commenced 
TnakiTig their escape out of doors ; tumbling over one another, 
in their haste to get out of harm's way. 

A few stayed in the saloon from sheer irresolution ; a few others, 
of cooler courage, from choice ; or, perhaps, actuated by a more 
astate instinct, which told them that in attempting to escape 
they might get a bullet in the back. 

There was an interval — some six seconds — of silence, during 
which a pin might hare been heard falling upon the floor. It 
was but the interlude that oflen occurs between resolution and 
action ; when the mind has completed its task, and the body has 
yet to begin. 

It might have been more brief with other actors on the scene. 
Two ordinary men would have blazed away at once, and without 
reflection. But the two now confronting each other were not of 
the common kind. Both had seen street fighting before — had 
taken part in it — and knew the disadvantage of an idle shot. 
Each was determined to take sure aim on the other. It was 
this that prolonged the interval of inaction. 

To those outside, who dared not even look through the doors, 
the suspense was almost painful. The cracking of the pistols, 
which they expected every moment to hear, would have been a 
relief. It was almost a disappointment when, instead, they 
heard the voice of the major— who was among the few who 
had stayed inside — raised in a loud authoritative tone. 

" Hold ! '* commanded he, in the accent of one accustomed 
to be obeyed, at the same time whisking his sabre out of 
its scabbaixl, and interposing its long blade between the dis- 
putants. 

** Hold your fire — I command you both. Drop your muzzles ;• 
or by the Almighty I'll take the arm off* the first of you that 
touches trigger ! Hold, I say ! " 

** Why ? " shouted Calhoun, purple with angry passion. " Why, 
Major Bingwood ? Afler an insult like that, and from a low 

fellow " 

" You were the first to offer it. Captain Calhoun.'* 
" D — n me if I care ! I shall be the last to let it pass 
unpunished. Stand out of the way, major. The quarrel is not 
yours — you have no right to interfere ! " 

** Indeed ! Ha ! ha ! Sloman ! Hancock ! Crossman ! hear 
that? I have no right to intei-foi-e! Hark ye, Mr. Cassius 
Calhoun, ex-captain of volunteers ! Know you where you are, 
sir ? Don*t fancy yourself in the state of Mississippi — among 
your slave-whipping chivalry. This, sir, is a military post — 
under militar}' law — my humble self its present administrator. 
I therefore command you to return your six-shooter to the 



114 THB HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

holster from which you have taken it. This instant too, or yon 
shall go to the gnardhonse, like the hnmblest soldier in the 
cantonment ! " 

"Indeed!'* sneeringly replied the Mississippian. "What a 
fine country you intend Texas to become ! I suppose a man. 
mustn't fight, however much aggrieved, without first obtaining a 
licence from Major Ringwood ? Is that to be the law of the 
land?" 

" Not a bit of it," retorted the major. " I'm not the man — 
never was — to stand in the way of the honest adjustment of a 
quarrel. You shall be quite at liberty — ^you and your 
antagonist — to kill one another, if it so please you. But 
not just now. You must perceive, Mr. Calhoun, that 
your sport endangers the lives of other people, who have not 
the slightest interest in it. I've no idea of being bored by 
a bullet not intended for me. Wait till the rest of us can 
withdraw to a safe distance; and you may crack away to 
your heart's content. Now, sir, will that bo agreeable to 
you?" 

Had the major been a man of ordinary character his com- 
mands might have been disregarded. But to his official weight, 
as chief officer of the post, was added a certain reverence due 
to seniority in age — along with respect for one who was himself 
known to wield a weapon with dangerous skill, and who allowed 
no trifling with his authority. 

His sabre had not been unsheathed by way of empty 
gesticulation. The disputants knew it; and by simultaneous 
consent lowered the muzzles of their pistols — still holding 
them in hand. 

Calhoun stood, with sullen brow, gritting his teeth, like a 
beast of prey momentarily withheld from making attack upon 
its victim ; while the mustanger appeared to take things as 
eooUy as if neither aiigry, nor an Irishman. 

" I suppose you are determined upon fighting ? " said the 
major, knowing that there was not much chance of adjusting 
the quarrel. 

"I have no particular wish for it," modestly responded 
Maurice. " If Mr. Calhoun will apologize for what he has said^ 
and also what he ha« done " 

" Ho ought to do it : he began the quarrel ! " suggested 
several of the bystanders. 

"Never!" scornfully responded the cx-captain. "Cash 
Calhoun ain't accustomed to that sort of thing. Apologize 
indeed ! And to a masquerading monkey like that ! " 

" Enough ! " cried the young Irishman, for the first time 
showing serious anger ; " I gave him a chance for his life. He 
refuses to accept it : and now, by the Mother of Grod, we don't 
both leave this room alive ! Major ! I insist that you and your 
friends withdraw. I can stand his insolence no longer ! " 



AM UNSAFE POSITIOK. 115 

k!" responded the Sonthemer, witb a jell of 
doisive laughter ; ^' a chance for my life ! Clear out, all of ye — 
dear out ; and let me at him ! " 

" Stay ! " cried the major, hesitating to torn his hack upon the 
dnelliat. '^ It's not quite safe. Yon may fancy to hegin yonr 
game of tonch-trigger a second too soon. We must get out of 
doors before you do. Besides, gentlemen ! " he continued, ad- 
dressing himself to those around him, '* there should be some 
tpteni about this. If they are to fight, let it be fair for both 
aides. Let them be armed alike ; and go at it on the square ! " 

" By all means ! " chorused the half-score of spectators, 
torfrJTig their eyes towards the disputants, to see if they accepted 
the proposal. 

*' Neither of you can object ? " continued the major, interro- 
gatively. 

** I sha'n't object to anything that*s fair," assented the Irish- 
■an— " devil a bit ! " 

** I shall fight with the weapon I hold in my hand," doggedly 
declared Calhoun. 

" Agreed ! the very weapon for mo ! " was the rejoinder of 
Us adversary. 

** I see you both cany Colt's six-shooter No. 2," said the 
major, scanning the pistols held in hand. '' So far all right ! 
you're armed exactly alike." 

" Have they any other weapons ? " inquired young Hancock, 
suspecting that under the cover of his coat the ex-captain 
bad a knife. 

''I have none," answered the mustanger, with a frankness 
that left no doubt as to his speaking the truth. 

All eyes were turned upon Calhoun, who appeared to hesitate 
about making a reply. Ho saw he must declare himself. 

" Of course," he said, " I have my toothpick as well. You 
don't want me to give up that ? A man ought to be allowed to 
use whatever weapon he has got." 

'* But, Captain Calhoun," pursued Hancock, " your adversary 
hag no knife. If you are not afraid to meet him on equal terms 
you should surrender yours." 

" Certainly he should !" cried several of the bystanders. " He 
must ! ho must ! " 

"Come, Mr. Calhoun!" said the major, in a soothing tone. 
" Six shots ought to satisfy any reasonable mfin ; without having 
recourse to the steel. Before you finish firing, one or the other 
of you " 

** D — n the knife ! " interrupted Calhoun, unbuttoning his 
coat. Then drawing forth the proscribed weapon, and flinging 
it to the farthest comer of the saloon, ho added, in a tone of 
bravado, intended to encowardice his adversary. " I sha'n't 
want it for such a spangled jay-bird as that. I'll fetch him out 
of his boots at the first shot." 



116 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAN. 

*' Time enough to talk when you've done something to juBtify 
it. Cry bo to a goose ; but don't fancy your big words are goin||f 
to frighten me, Mr. Calhoun ! Quick, gentlemen ! I'm im- 
patient to put an end to his boasting and blasphemy ! " 

" Hound ! " frantically hissed out the chivalric Southerner. 
** Low dog of an Irish dam ! I'll send you howling to yonr 
kennel ! I'll " 

*' Shame, Captain Calhoun ! " interrupted the major, seconded 
by other voices. "This talk is idle, as it is unpolite in the 
presence of respectable company. Have patience a minute 
longer; and you may then say what you like. Now, gentle- 
men ! " he continued, addressing himself to the surrounding, 
"there is only one more preliminary to be arranged. They 
must engage not to begin firing till we have got out of their 
way ? " 

A difficulty here presented itself. How was the engagement 
to be given ? A simple promise would scarce be sufficient in a 
crisis like that ? The combatants — one of them at least — would 
not }ye over scrupulous as to the time of pulling trigger. 

" There must be a signal," pursued the major. " Neither 
should fire till that be given. Can any one suggest what it 
is to be?" 

" I think I can," said the quiet Captain Sloman, advancing 
as he spoke. " Let the gentlemen go outside along with us. 
There is — as you perceive — a door at each end of the room. 
I see no difference between them. Let them enter again — one 
at each door, with the understanding that neither is to fire 
before setting foot across the threshold." 

" Capital ! the very thing ! " replied several voices. 

" And what for a signal ? " demanded the major. " A shot ? " 

" No. Ring the tavern bell ! " 

"Nothing could be better — nothing fairer," conclusively de- 
clared the major, making for one of the doors, that led out- 
ward into the square. 

" Mein Gott, major ! " screamed the German Boniface, rushing 
out from behind his bar ; where, up to this time, he had been 
standing transfixed with fear. " Mein Gott — surely the shentle- 
mens pe not going to shoot their pisthols inside the shaloon ! 
Ach ! they'll preak all my pottles, and my shplendid looking- 
glashes, an' my crystal clock, that hash cost me von — two 
hundred dollars. They'll shpill my pesht liquors — ach ! Major, 
it'll ruin me — mein Gott — it will ! " 

" Never fear, Oberdoffer ! " rejoined the major, pausing to 
reply. " No doubt you'll be paid for the damage. At all events, 
you had better betake yourself to some place of safety. If you 
stay in your saloon you'll stand a good chance of getting a bullet 
through your body, and that would be worse than the preaking 
of your pottles." 

Without further parley the major parted from the unfortunate • 



A DUEL WITHIN DOORS. 117 

landlord, and faurried across the threshold into the street, 
wbither the combatants, who had gone ont bj separate doors, 
bad already preceded him. 

" Old Doner," left standing in the middle of his sanded floor, 
did not remain long in that perilous position. In six seconds 
after the major's coat-tail had disappeared through the outer 
door, an imier one closed upon his own skirts; and the bar- 
room, with its camphine lamps, its sparkling decanters, and 
its costly mirrors, was left in untenanted silence — no other 
aoond being heard save the ticking of its crystal clock. 



CHAPTER XXI. 

A DUEL WITHIN DOORS. 



Once outside, the major took no further part in the affair. As 
the commajlding officer of the post, it would have been out of 
place for him to have given encouragement to a fight — even by 
Ikis interfering ix> see that it should be a fair one. This, however, 
was attended to by the younger officers ; who at once set about 
airanging the conditions of the duel. 

There was not much time consumed. The terms had been 
expressed already ; and it only remained to appoint some one of 
the party to superintend the ringing of the bell, which was to be 
the signal for the combat to commence. 

This was an easy matter, since it made no difference who 
might be entrusted with the duty. A child might have sounded 
the summons for the terrible conflict that was to follow. 

A stranger, chancing at that moment to ride into the rude 
square of which the hotel " Rough and Ready " formed nearly a 
side, would have been sorely puzzled to comprehend what was 
coming to pass. The night was rather dark, though there was 
still light enough to make known tlie presence of a conglo- 
meration of human beings, assembled in the proximity of the 
hotel. Most were in military garb : since, in addition to the 
officers who had lately figured inside the saloon, others, along 
with such soldiers as were permitted to pass tlio sentries, 
had hastened down from the Fort on roceivinpf intelligence 
that something unusual was going on within the "square.** 
Women, too, but scantily robed — soldiers' -wives, washerwomen, 
and "senoritas" of more questionable calling — had found 
their way into the street, and were endeavouring: to extract 
from those who had forestalled them an explanation of the 
fracas. 

The conversation was carried on in low tones. It was kno\vn 



118 THK HSADLESS H0B8B1CAK. 

that the coimnandant of the post was present, as well as others 
in authority ; and this checked any propensity there might faaye 
been for noisy demonstration. 

. The crowd, thus promiscnonsly collected, was not in close 
proximity with the hotel; but standing well out in the open 
ground, about a dozen yards from the building. Towards it, 
however, the eyes of all were directed, with that steady stare 
which tells of the attention being fixed on some engrossiiig 
spectacle. They were watching the movements of two men, 
whose positions were apart — one at each end of the heavy block* 
house, known to be the bar-room of the hotel ; and where, as 
already stated, there was a door. 

Though separated by the interposition of two thick log walli; 
and mutually invisible, these men were manoeuvring as if 
actuated by a conmion impulse. They stood contiguous to the 
entrance doors, at opposite ends of the bar-room, through both 
of which glared the light of the camphine lamps — falling in 
broad divergent bands upon the rough gravel outside. Neither 
was in front of the contiguous entrance ; but a little to one side, 
just clear of the light. Neither was in an upright attitude, but 
crouching — not as if from fear, but like a runner about to make a 
start, and straining upon the spring. 

Both were looking inwards — into the saloon, where no sound 
c-ould be heard save the ticking of a clock. Their attitudes told 
of their readiness to enter it, and that they were only restrained 
by waiting for some preconcerted signal. 

That their purpose was a serious one could be deduced 
from several circumstances. Both were in their shirt sleeves, 
hatless, and stripped of every rag that might form an impedi- 
ment to action ; while on their faces was the stamp of stem 
determination — alike legible in the attitudes they had assumed. 

But there was no fine reflection needed to discover their 
design. The stranger, chancing to come into the square, could 
have seen at a glance that it was deadly. The pistols in their 
hands, cocked and tightly clutched ; the nervous energy of 
their attitudes ; the silence of the crowd of spectators ; and the 
concentrated interest with which the two men were regarded, 
proclaimed more emphatically than words, that there was danger 
in what they were doing — ^in short, that they were engaged 
in some sort of a strife, with death for its probable consumma- 
tion! 

So it was at that moment when the crisis had come. The 
duellists stood, each with eye intent upon the door, by which 
he was to make entrance — perhaps into etemitj' ! Th^ only 
waited for a signal to cross the threshold; and engage in a 
combat that must terminate the existence of one or the other — 
perhaps both. 

Were they listening for that fatal formulary : — One — ^two- 
fire? 



A B0IL WITHIN DOORS. 119 

No. Another signal had been agreed npon; and it was 
given. 

A stentorian voice was heard calling ont the simple mono- 
syllable — 
"Bing!" 

Three or four dark figures conld be seen standing bj the 
shorn tmnk on which swung the tavern bell. The command 
instantly set them in motion; and, along with the oscillation 
of their arms— dimly seen through the darkness — conld be 
heard the sonorous tones of a bell. That bell, whose sounds 
had been hitherto heard only as symbols of joy — calling men 
together to partake of that which perpetuates life — ^was now 
listened to as a summons of death ! 

The *' ringing in " was of short duration. The bell had made 
less than a score of vibrations, when the men engaged at the 
rope saw that their services were no longer required. The dis- 
ippearance of the duellists, who had rushed inside the saloon, 
^e quick, sharp cracking of pistols ; the shivering of broken 
glass, admonished the ringers that theirs was but a superfluous 
Boise ; and, dropping the rope, they stood like the rest of the 
crowd, listening to the conflict inside. 

No eyes — save those of the combatants themselves — were 
witnesses to that strange duel. 

At the first dong of the bell both combatants had re-entered 
the room. Neither made an attempt to skulk outside. To have 
done so would have been a ruin to reputation. A hundred eyes 
were npon them ; and the spectators understood the conditions 
d the duel — that neither was to fire before crossing the 
threshold. 

Once inside, the conflict commenced, the first shots filling 
the room with smoke. Both kept their feet, though both were 
wounded — their blood spurting out over the sanded floor. 

The second shots were also fired simultaneously, but at 
random, the smoke hindering the aim. 

Then came a single shot, quickly followed by another, and 
succeeded by an interval of quiet. 

Previous to this the combatants had been heard rushing about 
through the room. This noise was no longer being made. 

Instead there was profound silence. Had they killed one 
another ? Were both dead ? No ! Once more the double 
detonation announced that both still lived. The suspension had 
been caused as they stood peering tlirougli the smoke in the 
endeavour to distinguish one another. Neither spoke or stirred 
in fear of betraying his position. 

Again there was a period of tranquillity similar to the former, 
but more prolonged. 

It ended by another exchange of shots, almost instantly 
succeeded by the falling of two heavy bodies upon the floor. 
There was the sound of sprawling — the overturning of 



120 TBE HEADLESS HOBSEllAN. 

chairs — then a single shot — the eleventh — and this was the last 
that was fired ! 

The spectators outside saw only a cloud of sulphurous smoke 
oozing out of both doors, and dimming the light of the cam- 
phine lamps. This, with an occasional flash of brighter efiul- 
gence, close followed by a crack, was all that occurred to give 
satisfaction to the eye. 

But the ear — that was gratified by a greater variety. There 
were heard shots — after the bell had become silent, other sounds : 
the sharp shivering of broken glass, the duller crash of falling 
furniture, rudely overturned in earnest struggle — the trampling 
of feet upon the boarded floor — at intervals the clear ringing 
crack of the revolvers ; but neither of the voices of the moi 
whose insensate passions were the cause of all this commotion! 

The crowd in the street heard the confused noises, and noted 
the intervals of silence, without being exactly able to interpret 
them. The reports of the pistols were all they had to proclaim 
the progress of the duel. Eleven had been counted ; and in 
breathless silence they were listening for the twelfth. 

Instead of a pistol report their ears were gratified by the 
sound of a voice, recognized as that of the mustanger. 

" My pistol is at your head ! I have one shot left — make an 
apology, or die ! '* 

By this the crowd had become convinced that the fight was 
approaching its termination. Some of the more fearless, looking 
in, beheld a strange scene. They saw two men lying pros- 
trate on the plank floor ; both with bloodstained habiliments, both 
evidently disabled ; the white sand around them reddened with 
their gore, tracked with tortuous trails, where they had crawled 
closer to get a last shot at each other — one of them, in scarlet 
scarf and slashed velvet trousers, slightly surmounting the 
other, and holding a pistol to his head that threatened to deprive 
him of life. 

Such was the tableau that presented itself to the spectators, 
as the sulphurous smoke, drifted out by the current bet>veen 
the two doors, gave them a chance of distinguishing objects 
within the saloon. 

At the same instant, a different voice from that which had 
already spoken. It was that of Calhoun — no longer in rois- 
tering bravado, but in low whining accents, almost a whisper. 

" Enough, d — :i it ! Drop your shooting-iron — I apologize.'* 



121 



CHAPTER XXII. 

AN UNKNOWN DONOR. 

In Texas a duel is not even a nine days' wonder. It oftoncr 
ceases to be talked about bj the end of the third day ; and, at 
the expiration of a week, is no longer thought of, except by the 
principals themselves, or their immediate fnends and relatives. 

This is so, even when the parties arc well known, and of respect- 
able standing in society. When the duellists are of humble 
position — or, as is often the case, strangers in the place — a single 
day may suffice to doom their achievement to oblivion ; to dwell 
only in the memory of the combatant who has survived it — 
oftener one than both — and perhaps some ill-starred spectator, 
who has been bored by a buUet, or received the slash of a knife, 
not designed for him. 

More than once have I been witness to a "street fight" — 
improvised upon the pavement — where some innocuous citizen, 
sauntering carelessly along, has become the victim — even unto 
death — of this irregular method of seeking " satisfaction." 

I have never heard of any punishment awarded, or damages 
demanded, in such cases. They are i*egarded as belonging to 
tlie " chapter of accidents ! " 

Though Cassias Calhoun and Maurice Gcmld were b;)th com- 
paratively strangers in the settlement — the latter being only 
seen on occasional -visits to the Fort — the affair Ixitweeu them 
caused something more than the usual interest ; and wa.s talked 
about for the full period of the nine days. The chai-acrttT of tlio 
former as a noted bully, and that of the latter as a man of 
singular habitudes, gave to tlieir duello a certain sort of dis- 
tinction ; and the merits and demerits of the two men were 
freely discussed for days afler the affair had t^ikeu place — 
nownere with more eamestnoss than upon the spot where they 
had shed each other's blood — in the bar-room of the liotel. 

The conqueror had gained credit and friends. Tlicrc? were few 
who favoured his adversary ; and not a ft* w wlio werc^ gratified 
at the result: for, short as had been the time; since Calhoun's 
arrival, there was m')re than one saloon loungor who had felt the 
smart of his insolence. 

For this it was ]>resunied the young Irishnuin had ad- 
ministered a cure; and there was almost universal satisfaction 
at the result. 

How the ex-c»ptain carried his discomfiture no one could t^ll. 
II'.- was no longer to be seen swaggering in the saloon of the 



122 THE UEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

" Rougli and Ready ; " lliough the cause of his absence was well 
understood. It was not chagrin, but his couch ; to which he was 
confined by wounds, that, if not skilfully treated, might consigii 
him to his coffin. 

Maurice was in like manner compelled to stay within doors. 
The injuries he had received, though not so severe as those of 
his antagonist, were nevertheless of such a character as to make 
it necessary for him to keep to his chamber — a small, and 
scantily furnished bedroom in " Old Duffer's " hotel ; where, 
notwithstanding the eclat derived from liis conquest, he was 
somewhat scur^^ly ti'cated. 

In the hour of his triumph, he had fainted from loss of blood. 
He could not be taken elsewhere ; though, in the shabby apart- 
ment to which he had been consigned, he might have thought of 
the luxurious care that surrounded the couch of his wounded 
antagonist. Fortunately Phelim was by his side, or he might 
have been still worse attended to. 

" Be Sant Pathrick ! it's a shame," half soliloquized this 
faithful follower. " A burnin' shame to squeeze a gintleman into 
a hole like this, not bigger than a pigstoy ! A gintleman like you, 
Masther Maurice. An' thin such ay tin' and drinkin*. Och ! a 
well fid Oirish pig wud turn up its nose at such traytmeut. 
An' fwliat div yez think I've heerd Owld Duffer talkin* about 
below ? " 

" I hav'n't the slightest idea, my dear Phelim ; nor dolcore a 
straw to know what you've heard Mr. Oberdoffer saying below ; 
but if you don't want him to hear what you are saying above, 
you'll moderate your voice a little. Remember, ma hohil^ that 
the f>ai*titions in this ])lace ai»e only lath and plaster." 

" Divil take the pai-titions ; and divil bam them, av he loikes. 
Av yez don't care fur fwhat's sed, I don't care far fwhat's heeurd 
— not the snappiu' av me fingers. The Dutchman can't trate 
us any worse than he's been doin' already. For all that, 
Masther Maurice, I thought it bist to lit you know." 

" Let me know then. Wliat is it he has been saying? " 
** Will, thin ; I heerd him tellin' wan av his croneys that besoides 
the mate an' the dhrink, an' the washin', an' lodgin', he intinded 
to make j'ou pay for the bottles, and glasses, an' other things, that 
was broke on the night av the shindy." 
" Me pay ? " 

" Yis, yerself, Masther Maurice ; an* not a pinny charged to the 
Yankee. Now I call that downright rascally mane ; an' nobody 
but a dhirty Dutchman wud iver hiv thought av it. Av there be 
anythin' to pay, the man that's bate should be made to showlder 
the damage, an' that wasn't a discindant av the owld Geralds av 
Bally ballagh. Hoo — hooch ! wudn't I loike to shake a shaylaylah 
about Diifi'er's head for the matther of two minutes ? Wudn't I ? " 
" What reason did he give for saying that I should pay ? Did 
you hear him state any ? " 



IN UNKNOWN DONOB. 123 

"I did, masther — the dhirtiest av all raisuns. He aid that 
jon were the bird in the hand ; an' he Avnd kape ye till yez sittled 
the score." 

"He*U find himself sL'ghtly mistaken about that; and would 
perhaps do better by presenting his bill to the bird in the bush. 
I shall be willing to pay for half the damage done ; but no more. 
Ton may tell him so, if he speak to you about it. And, in troth, 
Phelim, I don't know how I am to do even tlmt. There must 
have been a good many breakages. I remember a great deal 
of jingling while we were at it. If I don't mistake there was 
a smashed mirror, or clock dial, or something of the kind." 

"A. big lookin'-glass, masther; an* a crystal somethin', that 
''^aa set over tlie clock. They say two hunderd dollars. I don't 
belare they were worth wan half av the money." 

"Even so, it is a serious matter to me — just at this crisis. I 
feu*, Phelim, you will have to make a journey to tlie Alamo, 
and fetch away some of the household gods we have hidden 
there. To get clear of tliis scrape I shall have to sacrifice my 
spurs, my silver cup, and perhaps my gun ! " 

** Don't say that, masther ! How are we to live, if the gun 
goes?" 

*' As we best can, ma hohil. On horseflesh, I suppose : and the 
^0 will supply that." 

*' Be Japers ! it wudn't be much worse than the mate O wld 
Puffer sits afore us. It gives me the bellyache ivory time I ate 

The conversation was here intemiptcd by the opening of the 
^*^mber door ; which was done without knocking. A slatt<jriily 
^^irant — whose sex it would have been difficult to determine from 
^Utward indices — appeared in the doorway, with a basket of palm- 
^^imet held extended at the termination of a long sine\\'y arm. 

'*Fwhat is it, Girtnide ? " asked Phelim, who, from some pre- 
vious information, appeared to be acquainted with the feniiiiine 
^llaracter of the intruder. 
"A shentlemans prot this." 
" A gentleman ! Who, Gertrude ? " 

"Not know, mein heiT; he wash a stranger shentlemans." 
" Brought by a gentleman. Who can ho be ? See what it 
^^, Phelim." 

Phelim undid the fastenings of the lid, and exposed the in- 
"^«rior of the basket. It was one of considerable bulk : since 
■^Xisido were discovered several bottles, a]>j)areiitly coiitaiuiui^' 
^•ines and cordials, packed among a paraphernalia of swcet- 
^^eats, and other delicacies — both of the confectioneiy and the 
i^itchen. There was no note accompanying the present. — not 
^ven a direction — but the trim and elegant style in which it 
^Vras done up, proved that it had proceeded from the hands of a 
lady. 

Maurice turned over the various articles, examining each, as 

ci 2 



124 THE HEADLESS HOBSBHAK. 

Phelim supposed, to take note of its valne. Little was he think 
ing of this, while searching for the " invoice." 

There proved to be none — not a scrap of paper — not so mncl 
as a card! 

The generosity of the supply — well-timed as it was — bespob 
the donor to be some person in affluent circumstances. Wh< 
could it be ? 

As Maurice reflected, a fair imago came uppermost in his mind 
which he could not help connecting with that of his unknowi 
benefactor. Could it be Louise Poindexter ? 

In spite of certain improbabilities, he was fain to believe i 
might ; and, so long as the belief lasted, his heart was quiver 
ing with a sweet beatitude. 

As he continued to reflect, the improbabilities appeared to( 
strong for this pleasant supposition ; his faith became overturned 
and there remained only a vague unsubstantial hope. 

" A gintleman lift it," spoke the Connemara man, in semL 
soliloquy. '*A gintleman, she sez; a kind gintieman, I say! 
Who div yez think ho was, masther ? " 

" I haven't the slightest idea ; unless it may have been some 
of the officers of the Fort ; though I could hardly expect one oj 
them to think of me in this fashion." 

" Nayther yez need. It wasn't wan av them. No officer, oi 
gintleman ayther, phut them things in the basket." 

" Why do you think that ? " 

" Fwhy div I think it ! Och, masther ! is it ycrself to ask the 
quistyun ? Isn't there the smell av swato fingers about it ? 
Jist look at the nate way them papers is tied up. That purty 
krecl was niver packed by the hand av a man. It was done 
by a wuman ; and I'll warrant a raal lady at that." 

" Nonsense, Phelim ! I know no lady who should take so 
much interest in mo." 

"Aw, murdher! AVliat a thumpin' big fib! I know wun 
that shud. It wud be black ungratytude av she didn't — afbher 
what yez did for her. Didn't yez save her life into the 
bargain?" 

" Of whom are you speaking? " 

" Now, don't be desatcful, masther. Yez know that I mane 
the purty crayther that come to the hut ridin' Spotty that you 
presintedher, widout resavin' a dollar for the mare. If it wasn't 
her that sint ye this hamper, thin Phaylim Onale is the biggest 
numskull that was ivcr born about Bally ballagh. Be the Vargin, 
masther, spcakiu' of the owld place phuts me in mind of its 
paple. Fwhat wud the blue-eyed colleen say, if she knew yez 
were in such danger heeur ? " 

"Danger! it's all over. The doctor has said so; and that 
I may go out of doors in a week from this time. Don't distress 
yourself about that." 

" Troth, masther, yez be only talkin*. That isn't the danger 



AN UNKNOWN DOXOK. 125 

I was drhamin' av. Yez know will enough what I mane. 
Majbe jez have resaved a wound horn, bright eyes, worse than 
that from lid bullets. Or, maybe, somebody ilse has ; an* that's 
whjjeVe had the things sint ye." 

"lOtt're all wrong, Phelim. The thing must have come 
from the Fort ; but whether it did, or not, there's no reason why 
^ should stand upon ceremony with its contents. So, here 
goes to make trial of them ! " 

Notwithstanding the apparent relish with which the invalid 

pftrtook of the products — both of cellar and cuisine — while 

^tingand drinking, his thoughts were occupied with a still 

^ore agreeable theme ; with a string of dreamy conjectures, as 

*o whom he was indebted for the princely present. 

Could it be the young Creole — the cousin of his direst enemy, 
*s Well as his reputed sweetheart ? 
The thing appeared improbable. 
If not she, who else could it be ? 

The mustanger would have given a horse — a whole drove — to 
'^Ve been assured that Louise Poindcxter was the provider of 
*"Q.t luxurious refection. 

• • • • • 

Two days elapsed, and the donor still remaiucd unknown. 

Then the invalid was once more agreeably sui'prised, by a 
second present — very similar to the first — another basket, con- 
^ixiing other bottles, and crammed with fresh " confections." 

The Bavarian wench was again questioned ; but with no better 
'^sult. A " shentlemans " had "prot" it — the same "stranger 
**Aentlemans " as before. She could only add that "the shen- 
'*oniaus " was very ^^ schwartz^^^ wore a glazed hat, and came to 
*^Oe tavern mounted upon a mxde. 

^Maurice did not appear to be gratified with this description 
*-^ the unknown donor ; though no one — not even Phelim — was 
*^nde the confidant of his thoughts. 

In two days aftenvards they were toned down to their former 
**^briety — on the receipt of a third "basket, **prot by the 
**^hwartz gentleman " in the glazed hat, who came mounted upon 
^ mule. 

^ The cliange could not be explained by the belongings in the 
*^iu»ket — almost the counterpart of what had been sent before. 
"*^ t might be accounted for by the contents of a billet doux, that 
'Accompanied the gift — attached by a ribbon to the wickerwork 
^ >f palni-sinnet. 

" 'TLs only Isidora ! " muttered the mustanger, as he glanced at 
^lie superscription upon the note. 

Then opening it with an air of indifference, he read : — 

" Quertdo Senor ! 

" Soif quedando por una semana en la casa del tto Silvio, De 
xuestra des/brtuna he oido — tamhien que V, esta lual ciudado en la 



126 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

fonda. He mandado aJgunas eoaitas. Sea graeiota usario^ eama 
una dnquitita memoria del sermcio grande de que vuestrd deudor e«to)f. 
En la silla soy escribando, con las espuelas preparadat sacar sangre de 
las ijcuias del mio cavallo. En un momento mas, partirapor id Bio 
Grande. 

" Bienhichor—de mi vida Salvador — y de que a una mufer etfa 
mas querida, la honra — adios — adios ! 

"ISIDORA COVARUBIO DE LOS LlANOS. 

^^ Al Senor Don Mauricio Gerald.'' 

Litci*ally translated, and in the idiom of the Spanish language, 
the noto ran thus : — 

" Dear Sir, — I have been staying for a week at the house of 
Uncle Silvio. Of your mischance I have heard — also, that you 
are indiflerently cared for at the hotel. I have sent you some 
little things. Be good enough to make use of them, as a slight 
souvenir of the gi'eat service for which I am your debtor. I 
write in the saddle, with my spurs ready to draw blood from 
the flanks of my horse. In another moment I am off for the 
Rio Grande! 

" Benefactor — preserver of my life — of what to a woman is 
dearer — my honour — adieu ! adieu ! 

" Isidora Covakubio de los Llanos." 

" Thanks — thanks, sweet Isidora ! " muttered the mustanger, 
as he refolded the note, and threw it carelessly upon the coverlet 
of his couch. " Ever grateful — considerate — kind ! But for 
Louise Poindcxter, I might have loved you! '* 



CHAPTER XXIIL 

vows OF VENGEANCE. 

Calhoun, chafing in his chamber, was not the object of sucsh 
assiduous solicitude. Notwithstanding the luxurious appoint- 
ments that surrounded him, ho could not comfort himself with 
the reflection : that he was cared for by living creature. Truly 
selfish in his own heart, ho had no faith in fiiendships; and 
while confined to his couch — not without some fears that it 
might be his death-bed — he experienced the misery of a man 
believing that no human being cared a straw whether he should 
live or die. 

Any sympathy sho-wn to him, was upon the score of relation- 
ship. It could scarce have been otherwise. His conduct to- 
wards his cousins had not been such as to secure their esteem ; 
while his uncle, the proud Woodley Poindexter, felt towards him 
something akin to aversion, mingled with a subdued fear. 

It is true that this feeling was only of recent origin ; and 



vows OP VENGEANCE. 127 

arose out of certain relations that existed between nncle and 
nephew. As already hinted, they stood to one another in the 
relationship of debtor and creditor — or mortgagor and mort- 
gagee — the nephew being the latter. To snch an extent had 
this indebtedness been carried, that Cassias Calhoun was in efiect 
the real owner of Casa del Corvo ; and could at any moment 
have proclaimed himself its master. 

Conscious of his power, he had of late been using it to effect 
a particular purpose : that is, the secunng for his wife, the 
woman he had long fiercely loved — his cousin Louise. He had 
come to know that he stood but little chance of obtaining her 
consent : for she had taken but slight pains to conceal her indif- 
ference to his suit. Trusting to the peculiar influence estab- 
lished over her father, he had determined on taking no slight 
denial. 

These circumstances considered, it was not strange that the 
ex-officer of volunteers, when stretched upon a sick bed, received 
less sympathy from his relatives than might otherwise have been 
extended to him. 

While dreading death — which for a length of time he actually 
did — he had become a little more amiable to those around him. 
The agreeable mood, however, was of short continuance ; and, 
once assured of recovery, all the natural savagencss of his dispo- 
sition was restored, along with the additional bitterness arising 
from his recent discomfiture. 

It had been the pride of his life to exhibit himself as a saccess- 
ftil bully — the master of every crowd that might gather around 
him. He could no longer claim this credit in Texas ; and the 
thought harrowed his heart to its very core. 

To figure as a defeated man before all the women of the settle- 
ment — above all in the eyes of her he adored, defeated by one 
whom he suspected of being his rival in her aflections — a mere 
nameless adventurer — was too much to be endured with equa- 
nimity. Even an ordinary man would have been pained by the 
infliction. Calhoun writhed under it. 

He had no idea of enduring it, as an ordinary man would 
have done. If he could not escape from the disgrace, he was 
determined to revenge himself upon its author ; and as soon as 
he had recovered from the apprehensions entertained about the 
safety of his life, he commenced reflecting upon this very sub- 
ject. 

Maurice, the mustanger, must die ! If not by his (Calhoun's) 
own hand, then by the hand of another, if such an one was to be 
found in the settlement. There could not be much difficulty in 
procuring a confederate. There are hravoes upon the broad 
prairies of Texas, as well as within the walls of Italian cities. 
Alas ! there is no spot upon earth where gold cannot command 
the steel of the assassin. 

Calhoun possessed gold — more than sufficient for such a pur- 



128 TUE HEADLESS UORSEMAX. 

pose ; and to such purpose did he determine upon devoting at 
least a portion of it. 

In the solitude of his sick chamber he set about maturing hijs 
plans ; which comprehended the assassination of the mustancer. 

He did not purpose doing the deed himself. His late defeat 
had rendered him fearful of chancing a second encounter with 
the same adversary — even under the advantageous circumstances 
of a surprise. He had become too much encowardized to play 
the assassin. He wanted an accompHce — an arm to strike for 
him. Where was he to find it ? 

Unluckily he knew, or fancied he knew, the very man. There 
was a Mexican at the time making abode in the village — like 
Maurice himself — a mustanger ; but one of those with whom the 
young Irishman had shown a disinclination to associate. 

As a general rule, the men of this pecidiar calling are amongst 
the greatest reprobates, who have their home in the land of the 
** Lone Star.** By birth and breed they are mostly Mexicans, 
or mongrel Indians ; though, not unfrequently, a Frenchman, or 
American, finds it a congenial calling. They are usually the 
outcasts of civilized society — oftener its outlaws — who, in the 
excitement of the chase, and its concomitant dangers, find, 
perhaps, some sort of salvo for a conscience tliat has been se- 
verely tried. 

While dwelling within the settlements, these men are not 
unfrequently the pests of the society that surrounds them 
—ever engaged in broil and debauch ; and when abroad in the 
exercise of their calling, they are not always to be encountei'ed 
with safety. More than once is it recorded in the liistory of 
Texas how a company of mustangers has, for the nonce, con- 
verted itself into a band of ctiadrilla of salteadares ; or, disguised 
as Indians, levied black mail upon the train of the prairie 
traveller. 

One of this kidney was the individual who had become re- 
called to the memory of Cassius Calhoun. The latter remem- 
bered having met the man in the bar-room of the hotel ; upon 
several occasions, but more especially on the night of the duel. 
He remembered that ho had been one of those who had carried 
him home on the stretcher ; and from some extravagant expres- 
sions he had made use of, when speaking of his antagonist, Cal- 
houn had drawn i^ixe deduction, that the Me2dcan was no friend 
to Maurice the mustanger. 

Since then ho had learnt that he was Maurice*s deadliest 
enemy — himself excepted. 

With these data to proceed upon the ex-captain had called 
the Mexican to his counsels, and the two were often closeted to- 
gether in the chamber of the invalid. 

There was nothing in all this to excite suspicion — even had 
Calhoun cared for that. His visitor was a dealer in horses 
and homed cattle. Some transaction in horseflesh might be 



ON TH£ AZOTEA. 129 

going on between them. So any one would have supposed. 
And so for a time thought the Mexican himself: for in their 
first interview, but little other business was transacted between 
them. The astute Mississippian knew better than to declare 
his ultimate designs to a stranger; who, after completing an 
advantageous horse-trade, was well supplied with whatever he 
chose to drink, and cunningly cross-questioned as to the rela- 
tions in which he stood towards Maurice the mustanger. 

In that first interview, the ex-officer of volimteers learnt 
enough, to know tliat he might depend upon his man for any 
6er\'ice he might require — even to the committal of murder. 

The Mexican made no secret of his heartfelt hostility to the 
young mustanger. He did not declare the exact cause of it ; 
but Calhoun could guess, by certain innuendos introduced during 
the conversation, that it was the same as that by which he was 
himself actuated — the same to which may be traced almost 
every quarrel that has occurred among men, from Troy to Texas 
- — a woman! 

The Helen in this case appeared to be some dark-eyed dort" 
^ella dwelling upon the Rio Grande, where Maurice had been in 
the habit of making an occasional visit, in whose eyes he had 
found favour, to the disadvantage of her own conpaisano. 

The Mexican did not give the name ; and Calhoun, as he 
listened to his explanations, only hoped in his heart that the 
damsel who had slighted him might have won the heart of his 
rival. 

During his days of convalescence, several interviews had 
taken place between the ex-captain and the intended accomplice 
in his purposes of vengeance — enough, one might suppose, to 
have rendered them complete. 

Whether they were so, or not, and what the nature of their 
hellish designs, were things known only to the brace of kindred 
confederates. The outside world but knew that Captain 
Cassius Calhoun and Miguel Diaz — known by the nickname 
** El Coyote, " appeared to have taken a fancy for keeping each 
other's company ; while the more respectable portion of it won- 
dered at such an ill-starred association. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

ON THE AZOTEA. 



There are no sluggards on a Texan plantation. The daybreak 
begins the day ; and the bell, conch, or cowhom, that summons 
the dark-skinned proletarians to their toil, is alike the signal for 
their master to forsake his more luxurious couch. 

Such was the custom of Casa del Corvo under its original 
owners; and the fashion was followed by the fieanily of the 

c 3 



130 THE HEADLESS HOBSSSUX. 

American planter — not from anj idea of precedent, bat simplj 
in obedience to the suggestions of Nature. In a climate of 
almost pcq)ctnal spring, the sweet matutinal moments are not 
to be wasted in sleep. The siesta belongs to the hours of noon ; 
when all natnrc appears to shrink under the smiles of the solar 
lumioary — as if surfeited with their superabundance. 

On his reappearance at mom the sun is greeted with renewed 
joy. Then do the tropical birds spread their resplendent plumage 
— the flowers their dew-besprinkled petals — to receive bis fervent 
kisses. All nature again seems glad to acknowledge him as its 
god. 

Resplendent as any bird that flutters among the foliage of 
south-western Texas — fair as any flower that blooms within its 
glades — was she who appeared upon the housetop of Casa del 
Con^o. 

Aurora herself, rising from her roseate couch, looked not 
fresher than the young Creole, as she stood contemplating the 
cui^tuins of that very couch, from which a Texan sun was slowjy 
uplifting his globe of burning gold. 

She was standing upon the edge of the azotea that fronted 
towards the eant ; her white hand resting upon the copestone of 
the parapet still wet with the dews of the night. Under her 
eyes was the garden, enclosed within a curve of the river; 
beyond — the bluff* formed by the opposite bank ; and j^fturther 
still, the wide- spreading plateau of the prairie. 

"Was she looking at a landscape, that could scarce fail to chal- 
lenge admiration ? No. 

Efjually was she unconscious of the ascending sun ; though, 
like some fair pagan, did she appear to be in prayer at its 
uprising ! 

Listened she to tlio voices of the birds, from garden and grove 
swelling harmoniously around her ? 

On the contrary, her ear was not bent to catch any sound, nor 
her eye intent upon any object. Her glance was wandering, as 
if her thon^i^lits went not with it, but were dwelling upon some 
theme, neither present nor near. 

Tu contrast with the cheerful brightness of the sky, there was 
a shadow upon her brow ; despite the joyous warbling of the 
birds, there was the sign of sadness on her cheek. 

She was alone. There was no one to take note of this melan- 
choly mood, nor inquire into its cause. 

Tlie cause was declared in a few low murmured words, that 
fell, as if involuntarily, from her lips. 

" He may be dangerously wounded — perhaps even to death?" 

Who was the object of this solicitude so hypothetically ex- 
pressed ? 

The invalid that lay below, almost under her feet, in a chamber 
of the hacienda — her cousin Cassius Calhoun ? 

It could scarce be he. The doctor had the day before pro 



ON THE AZOTEA. 131 

noimced him out of danger, and on the way to quick recovery. 
Any one listening to her soliloqny — after a time continued in 
the same sad tone — would have been convinced it was not he. 

" I may not send to inquire. I dare not even ask after him. 
J fear to trust any of our people. He may be in some poor 
place — perhaps uncourteously treated — perhaps neglected? 
W^ould that I could convey to him a message — something more 

^without any one being the wiser ! I wonder what has become 

of Zeb Stump ? " 

As if some instinct whispered her, that there was a possibility 
of Zeb making his appearance, she turned her eyes towards the 
plain on the opposite side of the river — where a road led up 
s^nd down. It was the common highway between Fort Inge and 
"the plantations on the lower Leona. It traversed the prairie at 
eiome distance &om the river bank ; approaching it only at one 
fDoint, where the channel curved in to the base of the bluffs. A 
reach of the road, of half a mile in length, was visible in the 
direction of the Fort ; as also a cross-path that led to a ford ; 
"thence running on to the hacienda. In the opposite direction-— 
<iown the stream — the view was open for a like length, until 
"the chapparal on both sides closing in, terminated the savanna. 

The young lady scanned the road leading towards Fort Inge. 
Zeb Stump should come that way. He was not in sight ; nor 
^^as any one else. 

She could not feel disappointment. She had no reason to 
expect him. She had but raised her eyes in obedience to an 
^instinct. 

Something more than instinct caused her, after a time, to turn 
Tound, and scrutinize the plain in the opposite quarter. 

If expecting some one to appear that way, she was not disap- 
pointed. A horse was just stepping out fVom among the trees, 
where the road debouched from the chapparal. He was ridden 
by one, who, at first sight, appeared to be a man, clad in a sort of 
Arab costume ; but who, on closer scrutiny, and despite the style 
of equitation — a la Duchesse de Berri — was unquestionably of 
the other sex — a lady. There was not much of her face to bo 
seen; but through the shadowy opening of the rehozo — rather 
carelessly tapado — could be traced an oval facial outline, some- 
what brownly " complected," but with a carmine tinting upon 
the cheeks, and above this a pair of eyes whoso sparkle ap- 
peared to challenge comparison with the brightest object either 
on the earth, or in the sky. 

Neither did the loosely falling folds of the lady's Fcarf, nor her 
somewhat outre attitude in the saddle, hinder the ol>server from 
coming to the conclusion, that her figure was quite as attractive 
as her face. 

The man following upon the mule, six lengths of his animal 
in the rear, by his costume — as well as the respectful distance 
observed — was evidently only an attendant. 



132 THB HEADLESS HORSftMAK. 

" Who can that woman be ? " was the muttered interrogatoiy of 
Louise Poindexter, as with quick action she raised the lorgnette 
to her eyes, and directed it upon the oddly apparelled figure. 
" Who can she be ? " was repeated in a tone of greater deli- 
beration, as the glass came down, and the naked eye was 
entrusted to complete the scrutiny. "A Mexican, of course; 
the man on the mule her servant. Some grand senora, I sup- 
pose ? I thought thoy had all gone to the other side of the Rio 
Grande. A basket carried by the attendant. I wonder what it 
contains ; and what errand she can have to the Fort — it may 
be the village. 'Tis the third time IVe seen her passing within 
this week ? She must be from some of the plantations below ! " 

" What an outlandish style of riding ! Par die u ! I'm told it's 
not uncommon among the daughters of Anahuac. AVTiat if I 
were to take to it myself? No doubt it's much the easiest way ; 
though if such a spectacle were seen in the States it would be 
styled unfeminine. How our Puritan mammas would scream 
out against it ! I think I hear them. Ha, ha, ha ! 

The mirth thus begotten was but of momentary duration. 
There came a change over the countenance of the Creole, quick 
as a drifting cloud darkens the disc of the sun. It was not a 
return to that melancholy so late shadowing it ; though some- 
thing equally serious — as might be told by the sudden blanching 
of her cheeks. 

The cause could only be looked for in the movements of the 
scarfed equestrian on the other side of the river. An antelope 
had sprung up, out of some low shrubbery growing by the road- 
side. The creature appeared to have made its first bound from 
under the counter of the horse — a splendid animal, that, in a 
moment after, was going at full geJlop in pursuit of the 
affrighted " pronghom ; " while his rider, with her rebozo sud- 
denly flung from her face, its fringed ends streaming behind her 
back, was seen describing, with her right arm, a series of 
circular sweeps in the air ! 

" What is the woman going to do ? " was the muttered interro- 
gatory of the spectator upon the house-top. " Ha ! As I live, 
'tis a lazo ! " 

The senora was not long in giving proof of skill in the use 
of the national implement : — by flinging its noose around the 
antelope's neck, and throwing the creature in its tracks ! 

The attendant rode up to the place where it lay struggling ; 
dismounted from his mule; and, stooping over the prostrate 
pronghom, appeared to administer the coup de grace. Then, 
flinging the carcass over the croup of his saddle, he climbed 
back upon his mule, and spurred ailber his mistress-^who had 
already recovered her lazo, readjusted her scarf, and was riding 
onward, as if nothing had occurred worth waiting for ! 

It was at that moment — when the noose was seen circling in 
the air — that the shadow had reappeared upon the countenance 



A GIFT UNGIVEN. 133 

^i^f the Creole. It was not surprise that caused it, but an emo- 
"fcion of a different character — ^a thought far more unpleasant. 

Nor did it pass speedily away. It was still there — though a 

^"^hite hand holding the lorgnette to her eye might have 

^Xnindered it from being seen — still there, as long as the mounted 

^gores were visible upon the open road ; and even after they had 

~ out of sight behind the screening of the acacias. 

" I wonder — oh, I wonder if it be she ! My own age, he 

^said — not quite so tall. The description suits — so far as one 

"^may judge at this distance. Has her home on the Rio Grande. 

^^mes occasionally to the Leona, to >'isit some relatives. Who 

~^ho are they ? Why did I not ask him tlie name ? I wonder 

oh, I wander if it he she ! " 



CHAPTER XXV. 

A GIFT UNGIVEN. 



For some minutes after the lady of the lazo and lier attendant 
lad passed out of sight, Louise Poindextcr pursued the train of 
Teflection — started by the somewhat singular episode of which 
she had been spectator. Her attitude, and air, of continued 
dejection told that her thoughts had not been directed into a 
more cheerftil channel. 

Rather the reverse. Once or twice before had her mind 
given way to imaginings, connected with that accomplished 
equestrienne ; and more than once had she speculated upon her 
purpose in riding up the road. The incident just witnessed had 
suddenly changed her conjectures into suspicions of an exceed- 
ingly unpleasant nature. 

It was a relief to her, when a horseman appeared coming out of 
the chapparal, at the point where the others had ridden in ; a still 
greater relief, when he was seen to swerve into the cross path 
tiiat conducted to the hacienda, and was recognized, through 
the lorgnette, as Zeb Stump the hunter. 

The face of the Creole became bright again — almost to gaiety. 
There was something ominous of good in the opportune appear- 
ance of the honest backwoodsman. 

" The man I was wanting to see ! " she exclaimed in joyous 
accents. " He can bear me a message ; and perhaps tell who 
she is. He must have met her on the road. That will enable 
me to introduce the subject, without Zeb having any suspicion 
of my object. Even with him I must be circumspect— -after 
what has happened. Ah, me ! Not much should I care, if I 
were sure of his caring for me. How provoking his indiffer- 
ence ! And to me — Louise Poindexter ! Pardieu ! Let it pro- 
ceed much further, and I shall try to escape from the toils, if — 
if — I should crush my poor heart in the attempt ! '* 



134 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

It need scarce be said that tlie indiyidnal, whoso esteem was 
SO coveted, was not Zeb Stmnp. 

Her next speech, however, was addressed to Zeb, as he 
reined up in front of the hacienda. 

" Dear 'Sir. Stump ! '* hailed a voice, to which the old hunter 
delighted to listen. " 'I'm so glad to see you. Dismount, and 
come up here ! I know you*ro a famous climber, and won't 
mind a flight of stone stairs. There's a view from this house- 
top that will reward you for your trouble." 

" Thur's suthin' ow the house-top theear," rejoined the hunter, 
" the view o' which 'ud reward Zeb Stump for climbin' to tho 
top o' a steamboat chimbly; 'an thet's yurself. Miss Lewaze. I'll 
kum up, soon as I ha' stabled the olo maar, which shell be 
dud in the shakin' o' a goat's tail. Gee-up, ole gal ! '* he con- 
tinued, addressing himself to the mare, after he had dismounted, 
" Hold up yur head, an' may be Piute hyur '11 gie ye a wheen o* 
com shucks for yur breakfist." 

" Ho — ho ! Mass 'Tump," interposed the sable coachman, 
making his appearance in the jyatio. " Dat same do dis nigga — 
gub um de shucks wi' de yaller com inside ob dem. Ho — ho ! 
You gwup 'tairs to de young missa ; an' Piute he no 'gleck yar 
ole mar." 

" Yur a dod-rotted good sample o' a nigger, Piute ; an' the nix 
occashun I shows about hyur, I'll fetch you a 'possum — wi' tho 
meat on it as tender as a two-year old chicken. Thet's what 
I'm boun' ter do." 

After delivering himself of this promise, Zeb commenced 
ascending the stone stairway ; not by single steps, but by two, 
and sometimes three, at a stride. 

He was soon upon the housetop ; where he was once more 
welcomed by tho young mistress of the mansion. 

Her excited manner, and the eagerness with which she con- 
ducted him to a remote part of the azotea, told the astute 
hunter, that he had been summoned thither for some other purpose 
than enjoying the prospect. 

" Tell me, ilr. Stump ! " said she, as she clutched the sleeve of 
the blanket coat in her delicate fingers, and looked inquiringly 
into Zeb's grey eye — " You must know all. How is he ? Are 
his wounds of a dangerous nature ? " 

*' If you refar to Mister Cal — boon " 

" No — no — no. I know all about him. It's not of Mr. Cal- 
houn I'm speaking." 

" Wall, 'Miss Lewaze ; thur air only one other as I know of in 
these parts thet hev got wownds ; an' thet air's Maurice the mow- 
stanger. Mout it be thet ere individooal yur inquirin'abeout ? " 

** it is — it is ! You know I cannot be indifferent to his welfare, 
notwithstanding the misfortune of his having quarrelled with 
my cousin. You are aware that he rescued me — twice I may say 
— from imminent peril. Tell me — is he in great danger ? " 



A GUT UNGIVBK. 135 

Such earnestness conld no longer bo trifled with. Zob, 
withont fnrther parley, made reply : — 

" Ne'er a morsel o' danger. Thur's a bnllet-liole jest above tho 
ankle-jeint. It don*t signerfy more*n the scratch o' a kitting. 
Thur's another hev goed through the flesh o* the young fellur*s 
left arm. It don't signerfy neyther — only thet it drawed a 
good sup o' the red out o' him. Howsomdevcr, he's all right now ; 
an' expecks to be out o' doors in a kupple o' days, or tharabout. 
He sez that an hour in the seddle, an' a skoot acrosst tho 
purayra, 'ud do him more good than all the docturs in Texas. 
I reckon it wud ; but the doctor — it's the surgint o' the Fort as 
attends on him — he won't let him git to grass yit a bit." 

"Where is he?" 

" He air stayin' at the hotel — ^whar the skrimmage tuk place." 

" Perhaps he is not well waited upon ? It's a rough place, 
I've heard. He may not have any delicacies — such as an invalid 
stands in need of? Stay here, Mr. Stump, till I come up to you 
again.' I have something I wish to send to him. I know I can 
trust yon to deliver it. Wont you? I*m sure you will. I 
shall be with you in six seconds." 

Withont waiting to note the effect of her speech, the young 
lady tripped lightly along the passage, and as lightly descended 
the stone stairway. 

Presently she reappeared — bringing with her a good-sized 
hamper ; which was evidently filled with eatables, with some- 
thing to send them down. 

" Now dear old Zeb, you will take tliis to Mr. Gerald ? It's only 
some little things that Florinda has put up : some cordials and 
jellies and the like, such as sick people at times have a craving 
for. They are not likely to be kept in the hotel. Don't tell 
him where they come from — neither him^ nor any one else. You 
won't? I know you won't, you dear good ^ant." 

" Ye may depend on Zeb Stump for thet, Miss Lewaze. 
Nobody air' a goin* to be a bit the 'v^^sor about who sent 
these hyur^ delekissies ; though, for the matter o' cakes an* 
kickshaws, an' all that sort o' thing, the mowstangcr hain't 
had much reezun to complain. He liev been serpliod m' enuf 
o' them to hev filled the bellies o' a hul school o' shugarbabbies." 

** Ha ! Supplied already ! By whom ? " 

" Wal, thet thecr this chile can't inform yc, !Miss Lewaze ; not 
beknowin' it hisself. I on'y hyurd they wur fetched to the tavern 
in baskets, by some sort o' a sarvingt-man as air a Mexikin. 
I've seed the man myself. Fact, I've jest this minnit met him, 
ridin' arter a wuman sot stridy ler^s in her seddle, as most o' these 
Mexikin weemen ride. I reck'ii he be her sai'vingt, as he war 
keepin' a good ways ahint, and toatin' a basket jest like one o* 
them Maurice hed got arready. Like enuf it air another lot o' 
kickshaws they wur takin' to the taveni." 

There was no need to trouble Zeb Stump with furtl er 



136 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAK. 

cross-qnestioning. A whole history was supplied by that single 
speech. The case was painfully clear. In the regard of 
Maurice Geralil, Louise Poiudexter had a rival — perhaps some-* 
thing more. Tlio lady of the lazo was either his fianche^ or his 
mistress ! 

It was not by accident — though to Zeb Stump it may have 
seemed so — that the hamper, steadied for a time, upon the 
coping of the balustrade, and still retained in the hand of the 
young Creole, escaped from her clutch, and fell with a crash 
upon the stones below. The bottles were broken, and their con- 
tents s])illed into the stream that surged along the basement of 
the wall. 

The action of the arm that produced this effect, apparently 
springing from a spasmodic and involuntary effort, was never- 
tlieless due to design ; and Louisa Poindexter, as she leant over 
the parapet, and contemplated the ruin she had caused, felt as if 
her heart was shattered like the glass that lay glistening below ! 

" How unfortunate ! " said she, making a feint to conceal her 
chagrin. "The dainties are destroyed, I declare ! What will 
Florinda say 't After all, if Mr. Gerald be so well attended to, 
as you say he is, he'll not stand in need of them. I*m glad to 
hear he hasn't been neglected — one who has done me a service. 
But, Mr. Stump, you needn't say anything of this, or that I 
inquired after him. You know his lat€ antagonist is our near 
relative ; and it might cause scandal in the settlement. Dear 
Zeb, you promise me ? " 

" Swa-ar it ef ye like. Neery word. Miss Lewaze, neery 
word ; ye kin depend on ole Zeb." 

** I know it. Come ! The sun is growing hot up here. Let 
us go down, and sec whether we can find you such a thing as 
a glass of your favourite Monongahela. Come ! " 

with an assumed air of cheerfulness, the young Creole glided 
across the azotea ; and, trilling the ** New Orleans Waltz," once 
more commenced descending the escalera. 

In eager acceptance of the invitation, the old hunter followed 
close upon her skirts ; and although, by habit, stoically indif- 
ferent to feminine charms — and with his thoughts at that moment 
chiefly bent upon the promised Monongahela — he could not help 
admiring those ivory shoulders brought so conspicuously under 
his eyes. 

But for a short while was he permitted to indulge in the 
luxurious spectacle. On reaching the bottom of the stair his 
fair hostess bade him a somewhat abrupt adieu. After the reve- 
lations he had so unwittingly made, his conversation seemed 
no longer agreeable ; and she, late desirous of interrogating, 
was now contented to leave him alone with the Monongahela, 
as she hastened to hide her chagrin in the solitude of her 
chamber. 

For the first time in her life Louise Poindexter felt the pangs 



A GIFT UNGIVEN. 137 

of jeafoxisy. It was her first real love : for she teas in love with 
Maurice C^ndd. 

A solicitude like that shown for him by the Mexican senora, 
could scarce spring from simple friendship ? Some closer tie 
xnnst have been established between them ? So ran the reflec- 
tions of the now suffering Creole. 

From what Maurice had said — from what she had herself seen 
— the lady of the lazo was just such a woman as should win the 
afifections of such a man. Hers were accomplishments he might 
naturally be expected to admire. 

Her figure had appeared perfect under the magnifying effect of 
the lens. The face had not been so fairly viewed, and was still 
ruidetermined. Was it in correspondence with the form ? Was 
it such as to secure the love of a man so much master of his 
passions, as the mustanger appeared to be ? 

The mistress of Casa del Corvo could not rest, till she had 
satisfied herself on this score. As soon as Zeb Stump bad taken 
liis departure, she ordered the spotted mare to be saddled ; and, 
idding out alone, she sought the crossing of the river ; and thence 
proceeded to the highway on the opposite side. 

Advancing in the direction of the Fort, as she expected, she 
soon encountered the Mexican senora on her return ; no seiiora 
siccording to the exact signification of the tei*m, but a senoriia — 
o young lady, not older than herself. 

At the place of their meeting, the road i^an under the shadow 
of the trees. There was no sun to requii-e the coifing of the 
Tebozo upon the crown of the Mexican equestrian. The scarf 
liad fallen upon her shoulders, laying bare a head of hair, in 
luxuriance rivalling the tail of a wild steed, in colour the plumage 
of a crow. It formed the framing of a face, that, despite a cer- 
tain darkness of complexion, was charmingly attractive. 

Good breeding permitted only a glance at it in passing ; which 
was returned by a like courtesy on the part of the stranger. But 
as the two rode on, back to back, going in opposite directions, 
neither could restrain herself from turning round in the saddle, 
and snatching a second glance at the other. 

Their reflections w:ere not very dissimilar: if Louise Poin- 
dexter had already learnt something of the individual tlms encoun- 
tered, the latter was not altogether ignorant of her existence. 

We shall not attempt to pourtray the thoughts of the seGorita 
consequent on that encounter. Suffice it to say, that those 
of the Creole were even more sombre than when she sallietl 
forth on that eiTand of inspection ; and that the young mistress 
of Casa del Corvo rode back to the mansion, all the way seated 
in her saddle in an attitude that betokened the deepest dejection. 
" Beautiful ! " said she, after passing her supposed rival upon 
the road. " Yes ; too beautiful to be his friend ! " 

Louise was speaking to her own conscience ; or she might 
have been more chary of her praise. 



138 THE HEiDLESS HOBSEVAIT: 

" I cannot have any doubt," continned she, " of the relation- 
ship that exists between them. He loves her ! — ^he loves her ! 
It accounts for his cold indifference to me ? I've been mad to 
risk my heart's happiness in such an illstarred entanglement ! 

"And now to disentangle it I Now to banish him from my 
thoughts ! All ! 'tis easily said ! Can I ? " 

" I shall see him no more. That, at least, is possible. Afler 
what has occurred, he will not come to our house. We can 
only meet by accident ; and that accident I must be careful to 
avoid. Oh, Maurice Gerald ! tamer of wild steeds ! yon have 
subdued a spirit that may suffer long — perhaps never recover 
from the lesson ! '' 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

STILL OS THE AZOTE A. 



To banish from the thoughts one who has been passionately 
loved is a simple impossibility. Time may do much to subdue 
the pain of an unreciprocated passion, and absence more. But 
neither time, nor absence, can hinder the continued recurrence 
of that longing for the lost loved one — or quiet the heart aching 
with that void that has never been satisfactorily filled. 

Louise Poindexter had imbibed a passion that could not be 
easily stifled. Though of brief existence, it had been of rapid 
growth — vigorously overriding all obstacles to its indulgence. 
It was already strong enough to overcome such ordinary scruples 
as parental consent, or the inequality of rank ; and, had it been 
reciprocated, neither would have stood in the way, so far as she 
herself was concerned. For the former, she was of age; and 
felt — as most of her countrywomen do — capable of taking care 
of herself. For the latter, who ever really loved that cared a 
straw for class, or caste? Love has no such meanness in its 
composition. At all events, there was none such in the passion 
of Louise Poindexter. 

It could scarce be called the first illusion of her life. It was, 
however, the first, where disappointment was likely to prove 
dangerous to the tranquillity of her spirit. 

She was not unaware of this. She anticipated unhappiness 
for a while — hoping that time would enable her to subdue the 
expected pain. 

At first, she fancied she would find a friend in her own strong 
will ; and another in the natural buoyancy of her spirit. But 
as the days passed, she found reason to distrust both : for in 
spite of both, she could not erase from her thoughts the image 
of the man who had so completely captivated her imagination. 

There were times when she hated him, or tried to do so— 



STILL ON THE AZOTEA. 139 

irhen she could have killed him, or seen him killed, without 
making an effort to save him ! They were but moments ; each 
succeeded by an interval of more righteous reflection, when 
she felt that the feult was hers alone, as hers only the misfor- 
tune. 

No matter for this. It mattered not if he had been her 
enemy — the enemy of all mankind. K Lucifer himself— to 
whom in her wild &ncy she had once likened him — she would 
have loved him all the same ! 

And it would have proved nothing abnormal in her disposition 
— ^nothing to separate her from the rest of womankind, all the 
world over. In the mind of man, or woman either, there is no 
connection between the moral and the passional. They are as 
different from each other as fire from water. They may chance 
to run in the same channel ; but they may go diametrically 
opposite. In othfer words, wo may love the very being we hate 
— aye, the one we despise ! 

Louise Poindexter could neither hate, nor despise, Maurice 
Gerald. She could only endeavour to feel indifference. 

It was a vain effort, and ended in failure. She could not 
restrain herself from ascending to the azotea, and scrutinizing 
the road where she had first beheld the cause of her jealousy. 
Each day, and almost every hour of the day, was the ascent 
repeated. 

Still more. Notwithstanding her resolve, to avoid the acci- 
dent of an encounter with the man who had made her miserable, 
she was oft in the saddle and abroad, scouring the country 
around — riding through the streets of the \'illage — with no other 
object than to meet him. 

During the three days that followed that unpleasant discoveiy, 
once again had she seen — from the housetop as before — the lady 
of the lazo en route up the road, as before accompanied by her 
attendant with the pannier across his arm — that Pandora's box 
that had bred such mischief in her mind — while she herself 
stood trembling Avith jealousy — envious of the other's errand. 

She knew more now, though not much. Only had she learnt 
the name and social stonding of her rival. The Doiia Isidora 
Covambio de los Llanos — daughter of a wealthy haciendado, 
who lived upon the Rio Grande, and niece to another whose 
estate lay upon the Leona, a mile beyond the boundaries of her 
father's new purchase. An eccentric young lady, as some 
thought, who could throw a lazo, tame a wild steed, or anything 
else excepting her own caprices. 

Such was the character of the Mexican sciiorita, as known to 
the American settlers on the Leona. 

A knowledge of it did not remove the jealous suspicions of tho 
Creole. On the contrary, it tended to confirm them. Such 
practices were her own predilections. She had been created 
with an instinct to admire them. She supposed that others 



140 TU£ HEADLESS HORSEMAX. 

must do the same. The young Irishman was not likely to be an 
exception. 

There was an inter\'al of several days — during which the lady 
of the lazo was not seen again. 

" He has recovered from his wounds ? " reflected the Creole. 
" He no longer needs such unremitting attention." 

She was upon the azotca at the moment of making this reflec- 
tion — lorgnette in hand, as she had often been before. 

It was in the morning, shortly after sunrise : the hour when 
the Mexican had been wont to make her appearance. Louise 
had been looking towards the quarter whence the senorita might 
have been expected to come. 

On turning her eyes in the opposite direction, she beheld — 
that which caused her something more than surprise. She saw 
Maurice Genild, mounted on horseback, and riding down the 
road ! 

Though seated somewhat stiffly in the saddle, and going at a 
slow pace, it was certainly he. The glass declared his identity ; 
at the same time disclosing the fact, that his left arm was sus- 
pended in a sling. 

On recognizing him, she shrank behind the parapet — as she 
did so, giving uttemnce to a suppressed cr}'. 

Why tliat anguished utterance? Was it the sight of the 
disabled arm, or the pallid face: for the glass /^at^ enabled her 
to distinguish both ? 

Neither one nor the other. Neither could be a cause of 
surprise. Besides, it was an exclamation far differently intoned 
to those of cither pity or astonishment. It was an expression of 
sorrow, that had for its origin some heartfelt chagrin. 

The invalid was convalescent. He no longer needed to be 
visited by his nurse. He was on the way to visit her ! 

Cowering behind the parapet — screened by the flower-spike 
of the yucca — Louise Poin dexter watched the passing horseman. 
The lorgnette enabled her to note every movement made by him 
— almost to the play of his features. 

She felt some slight gratification on observing that he turned 
his face at intervals and fixed his regard upon Casa del Cor>'0. It 
was increased, when on reaching a copse, that stood by the side 
of the road, and nearly opposite the house, he reined up behind 
the trees, and for a long time remained in the same spot, as 
if reconnoitering the mansion. 

She almost conceived a hope, that he might he thinking of 
its mistress ! 

It was but a gleam of joy, departing like the sunlight under 
the certain shadow of an eclipse. It was succeeded by a sadness 
that might be appropriately compared to such shadow : for to 
her the world at that moment seemed filled with gloom. 

Maurice Gerald had ridden on. He had entered the chapparal ; 
and become lost to view with the road upon which he was riding. 



I LOVE TOU ! — I LOVE YOU ! 141 

Whither was he bonnd ? Whither, but to visit Dona Isidora 
Covambio de los Llanos ? 

It mattered not that he retnmed within less than an hour. 

They might have met in the woods — within eyeshot of that 

jealous spectator — but for the screening of the trees. An hour 

"vvas sufficient interview — ^for lovers, who could every day claim 

TLxirestricted indulgence. 

It mattered not, that in passing upwards he again cast regards 
towards Casa del Corvo ; again halted behind the copse, and 
poised some time in apparent scrutiny of the mansion. 

It was but mockery — or exultation. Ho might well feel 
"tx-iumphant ; but why should he be cruel, with kisses upon his 
lips — the kisses he had received from the Dona Isidora Cova- 
x*n.bio de los Llanos ? 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

I LOVE you! — I LOVE YOU ! 

Louise Poindexter upon the azoiea again — again to be subjected 
to a fresh chagrin ! That broad stone stairway trending up to 
the housetop, seemed to lead only to spectacles that gave her 
pain. She had mentcJly vowed no more to ascend it — at least 
tor a long time. Something stronger than her strong will com- 
batted — and successfully — the keeping of that vow. It was 
broken ere the sun of another day had dried the dew from the 
jfrass of the prairie. 

As on the day before, she stood by the parapet scanning 
the road on the opposite side of the river ; as befoijp, she saw the 
horseman with the slung arm ride past ; as before, she crouched 
to screen herself from observation. 

He was going downwards, as on the day preceding. In like 
manner did ho cast long glances towards tlie hacienda, and 
made halt behind the clump of trees that grew opposite. 

Her heart fluttered between hope and fear. There was an 
instant when she felt half inclined to show herself. Fear pre- 
vailed ; and in the next instant he was gone. 

Whither ? 

The self-asked interrofjfatory was but the same as of yesterday. 
It met with a similar response. 

AVTiither, if not to meet Doiia Isidora Covambio dc los 
Llanos ? 

Could there bo a doubt of it ? 

If so, it was soon to be determined. In less than twenty 
minutes after, a parded steed was seen upon ilie same road — 
and in the same direction — with a lady upon its back. 

The jealous heart of the Creole could hold out no longer. 
jSo truth could cause greater torture thin she wa^ already 



142 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

suffering through suspicion. She had resolved on assuring her- 
self, though the knowledge should prove fetal to the last faint 
remnant of her hopes. 

She entered the chapparal where the mustanger had ridden 
in scarce twenty minutes before. She rode on beneath the flitting 
shadows of the acacias. She rode in silence upon the soft turf — 
keeping close to the side of the path, so that the hoof might 
not stiike against stones. The long pinnate fronds, drooping 
down to the level of her eyes, mingled with the plumes in her 
hat. She sate her saddle crouchingly, as if to avoid being 
observ-ed — all the wliile with earnest glance scanning the open 
space before her. 

She reached the crest of a hill which commanded a view 
beyond. There was a house in sight surrounded by tall trees. 
It might have l>een termed a mansion. It was the residence of 
Don SilWo Martinez, the uncle of Doiia Isidora. So much had 
she learnt ah'eady. 

There were other houses to be seen upon the plain below ; 
but on this one, and the road leading to it, the eyes of the Creole 
became fixed in a glance of uneasy interrogation. 

For a time she continued her scrutiny without satisfaction. 
No one appeared either at the house, or near it. The private road 
leading to the residence of the haciendado, and the public high- 
way, were alike without living forms. Some horses were stray- 
ing over the pastures ; but not one with a rider upon his back. 

Could the lady have ridden out to meet him, or Maurice gone 



in 



P 



Were they at that moment in the woods, or within the walls 
of the house ? If the former, was Don Silvio aware of it ? If 
the latter, was he at home — an approving party to the assig- 
nation ? 

With such questions was the Creole afflicting herself, when 
the neigli of a horse broke abruptly on her ear, followed by 
the chinking of a shod hoof against the stones of the causeway. 

She looked below : for she had halted upon the crest of a steep 
acclivity. The mustanger was ascending it — riding directly 
towards her. She might have seen him sooner, had she not been 
occupied with the more distant view. 

He was alone, as he had ridden past Casa del Corvo. There 
was nothing to show that he had recently been in company — 
much less in the company of an inamorata. 

It was too late for Louise to shun him. The spotted mustang 
had replied to the salutation of an old acquaintance. Its rider 
was constrained to keep her ground, till the mustanger came up. 

" Good day. Miss Poindexter ? " said he — for upon the prairie.s 
it is not etiquette for the lady to speak first. " Alone ? " 

"Alone, sii\ And why not? " 

" 'Tis a solitary ride among the chapparals. But true : I 
think I've heard you say you prefer that sort of thing P " 



I LOVE YOU !— I LOVE TOU ! 143 

" Ton appear to like it yourself, Mr. Gerald. To you, however, 
:i.t is not so solitary, I presome ? " 

" In faith I do Uke it ; and just for that very reason. I have 
'the misfortune to live at a tavern, or * hotel,' as mine host is 
;2>leascd to call it; and one gets so tired of the noises — 
"^especially an invalid, as I have tho bad luck to be — that a ride 
^ong this quiet road is something akin to luxury. The cool 
^shade of these acacias — which the Mexicans have vulgarized 
T)y the name of mezquites — with the breeze that keeps con- 
stantly circulating through their fan-like foliage, would in- 
^gorate the feeblest of frames. Don't you think so, Miss 
Poindexter?" 

" You should know best, sir," was the reply vouchsafed, after 
jsome seconds of embarrassment. " You, who have so often tried 
it." 

" Often ! I have been only twice down this road since I have 
been able to sit in my saddle. But, Miss Poindexter, may I 
ask how you knew that I have been this way at all ? " 

" Oh ! " rejoined Louise, her colour going and coming as she 
spoke, " how could I help knowing it 't I am in the habit of 
spending much time on the housetop. The view, the breeze, the 
music of the birds, ascending from the gai'den below, makes it a 
dehghtful spot — especially in the cool of the morning. Our 
roof commands a view of this road. Being up there, how 
could I avoid seeing you as you passed — that is, so long as you 
were not under the shade of the acacias ? " 

" You saw me, then ? " said Maurice, with an embarrassed air, 
which was not caused by the innuendo conveyed in her last words 
— which he could not have comprehendedr— but by a remem- 
brance of how he had himself behaved while riding along the 
reach of open road. 

" How could I help it ? " was the ready reply. " The distance 
is scarce six hundred yards. Even a lady, mounted upon a 
steed much smaller than yours, was sufficiently conspicuous to 
be identified. When I saw her display her wonderful skill, 
by strangling a poor little antelope with her lazo, I knew it 
could be no other than she whose accomplishments you were so 
good as to give me an account of." 
"Isidora?" 
" Isidora ! " 

** Ah ; true ! She has been here for some time." 
" And has been very kind to Mr. Maurice Gcnild ? " 
" Indeed, it is true. She has been ver}" kind ; though 1 have 
had no chance of thanking her. With all her friendship for 
poor me, she is a great hater of us foreign invaders ; and would 
not condescend to step over the threshold of Mr. ObordofFer's 
hotel." 

" Indeed ! I suppose she preferred meeting you under the 
shade of the acacias? " 



1^ THE HEADLESS DOBSEliAK. 

" I have not met her at all ; at least, not for many months ; and 
may not for months to come — ^now that she has gone back to 
her home on the Rio Grande." 

" Are yoa speaking the truth, sir ? Yon have not seen her 

since she is gone away from the house of her uncle ? " 

** She has," replied Maurice, exhibiting surprise. " Of course, 
I have not seen her. I only knew she was here by her sending 
me some delicacies while I was ill. In truth, I stood in need of 
them. The hotel cuisine is none of the nicest ; nor was I the 
most welcome of Mr. Oberdoffer's guests. The Doiia Isidora 
has been but too grateful for the slight service I once did her." 
" A service ! May I ask what it was, ^fr. Gerald ? " 
" Oh, certainly. It was merely a chance. I had the oppor- 
tunity of being useful to the young lady, in once rescuing her 
from some rude Indians — Wild Cat and his Seminoles — into 
whose hands she had fallen, while making a journey from the 
Rio Grande to visit her uncle on the Lcona — Don Silvio 
Martinez, whose house you can see from here. The brutes had 
got drunk ; and wei-e threatening — not exactly her life — though 

that was in some danger, but well, the poor girl was in 

trouble with thorn, and might have had some difficulty in 
getting away, had I not chanced to ride up." 

"A slight service, you call it? You are modest in your 
estimate, !Mr. Gerald. A man who should do that much for 

'iiie " 

" What would you do for him ? " asked the mustanger, placing 
a significant emphasis on the final word. 
" I should love him," was the prompt reply. 
" Then," said ^Maurice, spurring his horse close up to the side 
of the spotted mustang, and whispering into the ear of its rider, 
with an earnestness strangely conti-asting to his late reticence, 
"I would give half my life' to see you in the liands of Wild . 
Cat and his drunken comrades — the other half to deliver you 
from the danger." 

" Do you mean this, iNfaurice Gerald ? Do not trifle with 
me : T aiu not a child. Speak the truth ! Do you mean it ? 
" I do ! As heaven is above me, I do ! " 

The sweetest kiss 1 ever had in my life, was when a woman — 
a fair creature, in the hunting field — leant over in her saddle and 
kissed me as 1 sate in mine. 

The fondest embi-aco ever received by ^NFaurice Gerald, was that 
given by Louise Poindoxter ; when, standing up in her stirrup, 
and laying her hand upon his hhoulder, she cried in an agony 
of earnest passion — 

" Bo with me as ihou wilt : I love i/oti !—I love you ! " 



143 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

A PLEASURE FORBID DLX. 



Ever since Texas became the scene of an Anjrlo- Saxon immi- 
gration — I might go a century farther back and say, from the 
time of its colonization by the descendants of the Conquista- 
dorcB — the subject of primary' importance has been the disposi- 
tion of its aborigines. 

Whether these, the lawful lords of the soil, chanced to be in 
a state of open war — or whether, by some treaty with the settlors, 
they were consenting to a temporaiy peace — made but slight 
dificrence, so far as they were talked about. In either case they 
were a topic of daily discoui-se. In the former, it related to 
the dangers to \ye hourly apprehended from them ; in the latter, 
to the probable duration of such treaty as mifrht for the 
moment be binding them to hold their tomahawks entombed. 

In Mexican times these questions formed the staple of con- 
versation, at desayuno^ almiterzo, comida, if ccna ; in American 
times, up to this present hour, they have been the themes of 
discussion at the breakfast, dinner, and su])i)oi' tables. In the 
planter's piazza, as in the hunter's camp, bear, deer, cougar, and 
peccary, are not named with half the frequency, or half the fear- 
inspiring, emphasis allotted to the word " Indian." It is this 
that scares the Texan child instead of the stereotyped nursery 
ghost, keeping it awake upon its moss-stuil'fd mattress — dis- 
tnrbing almost as much the repose of its parent. 

Despite the surrounding of strong walls — more resembling 
those of a fortress than a gentleman's dwelling — the inmates 
of Casa del Corvo were not excepted from this feeling of a]>j)re- 
hension, universal along the frontier. As yet thoy knew littlo 
of the Indian?, and that little only from report; but, (hiy by day, 
they were becoming lx»tter acquainted with the chanicter of 
this natural " teiror " that interfered with the shimbcrs of their 
fellow settlers. 

That it was no mere " bogie " they had begun to believe ; but 
if any of them remained ineixHlulous, a note rcciived from tho 
major commanding the Foi*t — about two weeks after tho horse- 
hunting expedition — was calculated to cure them of their in- 
credulity. 

It came in the early morning, carried by a mounted rifleman. 
It was put into the hands of the planter just as lie was about 
Bitting down to the break fiist- table, around whicli were assembled 
the three individuals who composed his househohl — his daughter 
Louise, his son Heniy, and his nephew Gassius Calhoun. 

"Startling news I" he exclaimetl, after liastily I'cading the 

11 



14G THE HEADLESS HORSEMAK. 

note. " Not very pleasant if true ; and I suppose there can be 
no doubt of that, since the major appears convinced." 

" Unpleasant news, papa ? " asked his daughter, a spot of red 
springing to her cheek as she put the question. 

The spoken interrogatory was continued by others, not uttered 
aloud. 

" What can the major have written to him ? I met him yes- 
terday while riding in the chapparal. He saw mo in company 

with Can it be that ? Mon Dieu ! if father should hear 

it " 

" * The Comanches on the war trail ' — so writes the major." 

"Oh, that's all!" said Louise, involuntarily giving voice to 
the phrase, as if the news had nothing so very fcflurful in it. 
" You frightened us, sir. I thought it was something worse." 

" Worse ! What trifling, child, to talk so ! There is nothing 
worse, in Texas, than Comanches on the war trail — ^nothing 
half so dangerous." 

Louise might have thought there was — a danger at least as 
difficult to be avoided. Perhaps she was reflecting upon a 
pursuit of wild steeds— or thinking of the traiVof a l^zo. 

She made no reply. Calhoun continued the conversation. 

" Is the major sure of the Indians being up ? What does he 
say, uncle ? " 

" That there have been rumours of it for some dajB past^ 
though not reliable. Now it is certain. Last night Wild Cat^ 
the Seminole chief, came to the Fort with a party of his tribe ; 
bringing the news that the painted pole has been erected in 
the camps of the Comanches all over Texas, and that the war 
dance has been going on for more than a month. That several 
parties are already out upon the maraud, and may be looked 
for among the settlements at any moment." 

"And Wild Cat himself — what of him?" asked Louise, an 
unpleasant reminiscence suggesting the inquiry. " Is that rene- 
gade Indian to be trusted, who appears to be as much an enemy 
to the whites as to the people of his own race ? " 

" Quite true, my daughter. You have described the chief of 
the Seminoles almost in the same terms as I find him spoken 
of, in a postscnpt to the major's letter. He counsels us to 
beware of the two-faced old rascal, who will bo sure to take 
sides with the Comanches, whenever it may suit his convenienoe 
to do so." 

"Well," continued the planter, laying aside the note, and 
betaking himself to his cofi'ee and waflies, " I trust we sha'n't 
see any redskins here — either Seminoles, or Comanches. In 
making their marauds, let us hope they will not like the look 
of the crenelled parapets of Casa del Corvo, but give the bad* 
enda a wide berth." 

Before any one could respond, a sable face appearing at the 
door of the dining-room — ^which was the aparhnent in which 



A PLEASURE FORBIDDEN. 147 

fareak&Bt was being eaten — caused a complete change in the 
csharacter of the conversation. 

The countenance belonged to Pluto, the coacliman. 
•* What do you want, Piute ? " inquired his owner. 
** Ho, ho ! Massr Woodloy, dis chile want nuffin 't all. Only 
look in t' tell Missa Looey dat Boon's she done eat her brekfieuM 
de spotty am unner de saddle, all ready for chuck de bit into 
him mouf. Ho ! ho ! dat critter do dance 'bout on dc pavestone 
as ef it wa' mad to 'treak it back to de smoovc tuff ob de 
praira." 

" Groing out for a ride, Louise ? " asked tlie planter, with 
a shadow upon his brow, which he made but little efibrt to 
conceal. 

*' Yes, papa ; I was thinking of it." 
" You must not." 
"Indeed!" 

** I mean, that you must not ride out alone. It is not 
proper." 

" Why do you think so, papa ? I have often lidden out 
alone." 

" Yes ; perhaps too often." 

This last remark brought the slightest tinge of colour to the 
cheeks of the young Creole ; though she seemed uncertain what 
construction she was to put upon it. 

Notwithstanding its ambiguity, she did not press for an ezpli^ 
nation. On the contrary, she preferred shunning it; as was 
ahown by her reply. 

" If you think so, papa, I shall not go out again. Though to 
be cooped up here, in this dismal dwelling, while you gentlemen 
are all abroad upon business — is that the life you intend me to 
lead in Texas ? " 

** Nothing of the sort, my daughter. I have no objection to 
your riding out as much as you please ; but Henry must be 
with you, or your cousin Cassius. I only lay an embargo on 
your going alone. I liave my reasons." 
" Reasons ! What are they ? " 

The question came involantarily to her lips. It had scarce 
passed tiiem, ere she regretted lia\ing asked it. By her uneasy 
air it was evident slic had apprehensions as to the answer. 
The reply appeared partially to relieve lier. 
" What other reasons do you want," said the planter, evidently 
endeavouring to escape irom the suspicion of duplicity by the 
statement of a convenient fact — " what better, tjian the contents 
of this letter from the major? Remember, my child, you ore 
not in Louisiana, where a lady may travel anywhere without fear 
of either insult or outrage ; but in Texas, where she may dread 
both — where even her life may be in danger. Here there are 
Indians." 

"My excursions don't extend so far from the house, that I 

H 2 



148 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

need have any fear of Indians. I never go more than five miles 
at the most." 

" Five miles ! " exclaimed the ex-officer of volunteers, with a 
sardonic smile ; " you would be as safe at fifty, cousin Loo. You 
are just as likely to encounter the redskins within a hundred 
yards of the door, as at the distance of a hundred miles. When 
they are ont he war trail they may be looked for anywhere, and 
at any time. In my opinion, uncle Woodley is right : yon are 
very foolish to ride out alone." 

" Oh ! you say so? " shaq>ly retorted the young Creole, tnni- 
ing disdainfully towards her cousin. " And pray, sir, may I ask 
of what service your company would be to me in the event of 
my encountering the Comanches, which I don't believe there's 
the slightest danger of my doing ? A pretty figure we'd cut — 
the pair of us — in the midst of a war-party of painted savages! 
Ha I ha ! The danger would be yours, not mine : since I should 
certainly ride away, and leave you to your own devices. Danger, 
indeed, within five miles of the house ! If there's a horseman in 
Texas — savages not excepted — who can catch up with my little 
Luna in a five-mile stretch, he must ride a swift steed ; which is 
more than you do, Mr. Cash ! " 

*' Silence, daughter ! " commanded Poindexter. " Don't let 
me hear you talk in that absurd strain. Take no notice of it, 
nephew. Even if there were no danger from Indians, there are 
other outlaws in these parts quite as much to be shunned as 
they. ]']nough that I forbid you to ride abroad, as you have of 
lat<> been accustomed to do." 

" Be it as you will, papa," rejoined Louise, ri.sing from the 
break fast-table/and with an air of resignation preparing to leave 
the room. " Of course I shall obey you — at the risk of losing 
my health for want of exercise. Go, Pluto ! " she added, ad- 
dressing herself to the darkey, who still stood grinning in the 
doorway, " turn Luna loose into the corral — the pastures — any- 
where. Lot her stray back to her native prairies, if the creature 
be so inclined ; she's no longer needed here." 

With this speech, the young lady swept out of the sala^ 
leaving the three gentlemen, who still retained their seats by 
the table, to reflect upon the satire intended to be conveyed by 
her words. 

They were not the last to which she gave utterance in that 
same scries. As she glided along the corridor leading to her 
own chamber, others, low murmured, mechanically escaped from 
her lips. They were in the shape of interrogatories — a string 
of them self-asKcd, and only to be answered by conjecture. 

" What can papa have heard ? Is it but his suspicions ? 
Can anv one have told him ? Does he know that we have met ? " 



149 
CHAPTER XXIX. 

EL COYOTE AT HOME. 

Callioim took his departure from the breakfast-table almost as 
abruptly as his cousin; but, on leaving the «flr/^, instead of 
retnrmng to his own chajnber, he sallied forth from the house. 

Still suffering from wounds but half healed, he was never- 
theless sufficiently convalescent to go abroad — into the garden, 
to the stables, the corrals — anywhere around the house. 

On the present occasion, his excursion was intended to con- 
duct him to a more distant point. As if under the stimulus of 
what had turned up in the conversation — or perhaps by the con- 
tents of the letter tliat had been read — his feebleness seemed for 
the time to have forsaken him ; and, vigorously plying - his 
crutch, ho proceeded up the river in the direction of Fort Inge. 
In a barren tract of land, that lay about half way between the 
hacienda and the Fort — and that did not appear to belong to any 
one — he airived at the terminus of his limping expedition. 
There was a grove of mezquU, with some larger trees shading 
it ; and in the midst of this, a rude hovel of " wattle and dab,** 
known in South- Western Texas as a,jacaI6, 

It was the domicile of Miguel Diaz, the Mexican mustanger 
— a lair appropriate to the semi-savage who had earned for him- 
self the distinctive appellation of ET Coyote (" Prairie Wolf"). 

It was not always that the wolf could be found in his den — 
for his jacali deserved no better description. It was but his 
occasional sleeping-place; during those intervals of inactivity 
^hcn, by the disposal of a drove of captured mustangs, he could 
afford to stay for a time within the limits of the settlement, 
indulging in such gross pleasures as its proximity afforded. 

Calhoun was fortunate in finding him at home ; though not 
quite so fortunate as to find him in a state of sobnety. He was 
not exactly intoxicated — having, after a prolonged spell of sleep, 
partially recovered from this, the habitual condition of his exist- 
ence. 

"-H7a w^r/" he exclaimed in his provincial patois, slurring 
the salutation, as liis visitor darkened the door of the jacale, 
^''PyDiosl Wlio'd have expected to sec you ? Sientese I Be 
seated. Take a chair. There's one. A chair ! lla ! ha ! ha ! " 
The laugh was called up at contemplation of that which he 
had facetiously termed a chair. It was the skull of a mustang, 
intended to serve as such ; and which, ^vith another similar 
piece, a rude table of cleft yucca-tree, and a couch of cane reeds, 
upon which the owner of the jacale was reclining, constituted 
the sole furniture of Miguel Diaz's dwelling. 

Calhoun, fatigued witli his halting promenade, accepted the 
invitation of his host, and sate down upon the horse-skull. 



150 THE HEADLESS HOBSEUAK. 

He did not permit mnch time to pass, before entering upon. 
the object of liis errand. 

" Seiior Diaz ! " said he, " I have come for " 

" S'iior Americano!" exclaimed the half-drunken horse-hunter, 
cutting short the explanation, "why waste words upon that? 
Carrambo! I know well enough for what you've come. Yon 
want mo to icipe out that devilish Irlandes ! " 

" Well ! " 

" Well ; I promised you I would do it, for five hundred />^Mir— 
at the proper time and opportunity. I will. Miguel Diaz never 
played false to his promise. But the time's not come, nor capitan; 
nor yet tlie opportunity. Carajo! To kill a man outright 
requires skill. It can't be done — even on the prairies — without 
danger of detection ; and if detected, ha ! what chance for me ? 
You forget, iior capitan^ that I'm a Mexican. If I were of 
your people, I might slay Don Mauricio ; and get clear on the 
score of its being a quarrel. Maldito I With us Mexicans it is 
different. If we stick our machete into a man so as to let out 
his life's blood, it is called murder ; and you Americanos, with 
your stupid juries of twelve honest men, would pronounce it 
so ; aye, and hang a poor fellow for it. Chingaro! I can't risk 
that. I liato the Irlandes as much as you ; but I'm not going to 
chop olF my nose to spite my o>vn face. I must wait for the 
time, and the cliance — carrai, the time and the chance." 

" I3oth are come ! " exclaimed the tempter, bending earnestly 
towards the bi*avo. " You said you could easily do it, if there 
was any Indian trouble going on ? " 

" Of course I said so. If there was that " 

" You liiivo not heard the news, then ? " 

" What news ? " 

" That tlic Comanclies are starting on the war trail." 

" Carajo ! '' exclaimed El Coyote, springing up fi^om his couch 
of rcedH, and exhibiting all the activity of his namesake, when 
roused by the scent of prey. Santissima Virgen ! Do you 
speak the tnith, iior capitan ? " 

" Neither more nor less. The news has just reached the Fort. 
I have it on the best authority — W\q, ofliccr in command." 

" In that case," answered the Mexican, TCflectingly — " in that 
case, Don Maui-icio may die. The Coraanches can kill him. 
Ha! ha! ha!" 

" You are sure of it ? " 

" I should be surer, if his scalp were worth a thousand dollars, 
instead of five hundred." 

" It {b worth that sum." 

" What sum ? " 

" A thousand dollai's." 

"You promise it? " 

"I do." 

" Then the Comanclies shall scalp him, nor capitan. You 



EL COYOTE AT HOME. 151 

may retom to Casa del Corvo, and go to sleep with confidence 
that, whenever the opportuniiy arriTes, yonr enemy will lose 
Ilia hair. You understand me ? " 

«Ido." 

** Get ready yonr thousand peifUf" 

•* They await your acceptance." 

" Carajo ! I shall earn them in a trice. Adios ! adios ! " 

*' Santistima Virgen I " exclaimed the profane rufiian, as his 
Tiaitor limped out of sight. " What a magnificent fluke of for- 
tune! A perfect chiripe, A thousand dollars for killing the 
man I intended to kill on my own account, without charging 
anybody a single claeo for the deed! 

** The Comanches upon the war trail ! Chingaro ! can it be 
true ? If so, I must look up my old disguises — gone to neglect 
through these three long years of accursed peace. Viva la guerra 
^ los Indies f Success to the pantomime of the prairies ! " 



CHAPTER XXX. 

A SAQITTABY COERESPOXDENCE. 

Louise Poindexter, passionately addicted to the sports termed 
^* manly," could scarce hare overlooked archery. 

She had not. The bow, and its adjunct the arrow, were in 
her hands as toys which she could control to her will. 

She had been instructed in their manege by the Houma 
Indians ; a remnant of whom — ^the last descendants of a once 
powerful tribe — may still be encountered upon the " coast " of 
the Mississippi, in the proximity of Point Coupe and the bagatt 
Atchafalaya. 

For a long time her bow had lain unbent — unpacked, indeed, 
ever since it had formed part of the paraphernalia brought over- 
land in the waggon train. Since her arrival at Casa del Corvo 
ahe had found no occasion to use the weapon of Diana ; and 
her beautiful bow of Osage-orange wood, and quiver of plumed 
arrows, had lain neglected in the lumber-room. 

There came a time when they were taken forth, and honoured 
with some attention. It was shortly after that scene at the 
breakfast-table ; when she had received the paternal command to 
discontinue her equestrian excursions. 

To this she had yielded implicit obedience, even beyond 
what was intended : since not only had she given up riding out 
alone, but declined to do so in company. 

The spotted mustang stood listless in its stall, or pranced 
frantically around the corral ; wondering why its spine was no 
longer crossed, or its ribs compressed, by that strange capari< 
Bon, that more than aught else reminded it of its cai)tivity. 



152 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMIK. 

It was not neglected, however. Thongli no more mounted bj 
its fair mistress, it was the object of her daily — ahnost honily — 
solicitude. The best com in the granaderioM of Casa del Ccnrvo 
was selected, the most nutritious grass that grows upon the 
savanna — the gramma — furnished for its manger; wliile for 
drink it had the cool crystal water from the current of the 
Leona. 

Pluto took deh'ght in grooming it ; and, under his currycomb 
and brushes, its coat had attained a gloss which rivalled that 
upon Pluto's ovra sable skin. 

While not engaged attending upon her pet, Miss Poindezter 
divided the residue of her time between indoor duties and 
archery. The latter sho appeared to have selected as the sub- 
stitute for that pastime of which she was so passionately fond, 
and in which she was now denied indulgence. 

The scene of her sagittary performances was tlie garden, with 
its adjacent shrubl)ery — an extensive enclosure, three sides of 
which were fenced in by the river itself, curving round it like the 
shoe of a racehorse, the fourth being a straight line traced by 
the rearward wall of the hacienda. 

Witliin this circumference a garden, with ornamental grounds^ 
had been laid out, in times long gone by — as might have been 
told by many ancient exotics seen standing over it. Even the 
statues spoke of a past age — not only in their decay, but in the 
personages they were intended to represent. Equally did they 
betray the chisel of the Spanish sculptor. Among them you 
might see commemorated the figure and features of the great 
Conde ; of the Campeador ; of Ferdinand and his energetic 
queen ; of the discoverer of the American world ; of its two 
chief conquisf adores — Cortez and Pizarro ; and of her, alike 
famous for her beauty and devotion, the Mexican Malinche. 

It was not amidst these sculptured stones that Louise Poin- 
dcxter practised her feats of archery ; though more than once 
might she have been seen standing before the statue of Ma- 
linche, and scanning the voluptuous outline of the Indian 
maiden's form ; not with any severe thought of scorn, that this 
dark-skinned daughter of Eve had succumbed to such a con* 
queror as Cortez. 

The young Creole felt, in her secret heart-, that sho had no 
right to throw a stone at that statue. To one less famed than 
Cortez — though in her estimation equally deserving of fame — 
she had suiTendered what the great conquistador had won from 
Marina — her heai*t of hearts. 

In her excursions with the bow, which were of diurnal 
occurrence, she strayed not among the statues. Her game was 
not thei*o to be found ; but under the shadow of tall trees that, 
keeping the curve of the river, formed a semicircidar grove 
between it and the garden. Most of these trees were of indige- 
nous growth — wild Chinas, mulbernes, and pecans — that in tne 



A SAGITTABT COBBESPONDENGE. 153 

h^ing out of the gronnds had been permiited to remain where 
Nature, perhaps some centnries ago, had scattered their seed. 

It waa nnder the leafy canopy of these fair forest trees the 
young Creole delighted to sit — or stray along the edge of the 
pellucid river, that rolled dreamily by. 

Here she was free to be alone ; which of late appeared to be 
her preference. Her father, in his sternest mood, could not have 
denied her so slight a privilege. If there was danger apon the 
outside prairie, there conld be none within the garden — enclosed, 
as it was, by a river broad and deep, and a wall that could not 
have been scaled without the aid of a thirty-round ladder. So 
far from objecting to this solitary strolling, the planter appeared 
something more than satisfied that his daughter had taken to 
these tranquil habits ; and the suspicions which he had con- 
ceived — ^not altogether without a cause — were becoming gra- 
dually dismissed from his mind. 

After all, he might have been misinformed ? Tlie tongue of 
scandal takes delight in torturing; and he may have been chosen 
as one of its victims ? Or, perhaps, it was but a casual thing — 
the encounter, of which he had been told, between his daughter 
and Maurice the mustanger ? They may have met by accident 
in the chapparal ? She could not well pass, without speaking to, 
the man who had twice rescued her from a dread dauger. There 
might have been nothing in it, beyond the simple acknowledg- 
ment of her gratitude ? 

It looked well that she had, with such willingness, con- 
sented to relinquish her rides. It was but little in keeping 
with her usual custom, when crossed. Obedience to that pai'- 
ticnhir command could not have been irksome ; and argued 
innocence uncontaminated, virtue still intact. 

So reasoned the fond father ; who, beyond conjecture, was not 
permitted to scrutinize too closely the character of his child. In 
other lands, or in a different class of society, he might possibly 
liave asked direct questions, and required direct answers to tlicni. 
This is not the method upon the Mississippi ; where a son of ten 
3'ears old — a daughter of less than fifteen — would rebel against 
^uch scrutiny, and call it inquisition. 

Still less might Woodley Poindexter strain the statutes of 
parental authority — the father of a Creole belle — for 3'cars used 
to that proud homage whose iuccn.se often stilLs, or altogotlier 
destroys, the simpler affections of the heart. 

Though her father, and by law her controller, ho knew to 
what a shoii length his power might extend, if exerted in oppo- 
sition to her will. 

He was, therefore, satisfied with her late act of obedience — 
rejoiced to find that instead of continuing her reckless rides 
upon the praine, she now contented herself within the range of 
the garden — with bow and arrow slaying the small birds that 
were so unlucky as to come imdcr her aim. 



154 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAir. 

Father of fifty years old, why reason in this foolish fiufaii 
Have you forgotten yonr ovm yonth — the thoughts that t 
inspired you — the deceits you practised under sudh inspiratio 
the counterfeits you assumed — the " stories " yon told to cl 
what, after all, may have been the noblest impulse of 3 
nature? 

The father of the fair Louise appeared to have beo 
oblivious to recollections of this kind: for his early life 
not without facts to have furnished them. They must 1: 
beenforgottcn, else ho would have taken occasion to follow 
daughter into the garden, and observe her — ^himself unobsei 
— whilo disporting herself in the shrubbery that bordered 
river bank. 

By doing so, ho would have discovered that her disposi 
was not so cruel as may have been supposed. Instead 
transfixing the innocent birds that fluttered in such foo 
confidence around her, her greatest feat in archery appearec 
be : the impaling a piece of paper upon the point of her an 
and sending the shaft thus charged across tho river, to 
harmlessly into a thicket on the opposite side. 

Ho would have witnessed an exhibition still more singu 
He would have seen the arrow thus spent — after a short 
terval, as if dissatisfied with the place into which it had l 
shot, and desirous of returning to the fair hand whence it 
taken its departure — come back into the garden with the sa 
or a similar piece of paper, transfixed upon its shaft ! 

The thing might have appeared mysterious — even supemati 
— to an observer unacquainted with the spirit and mechanisi 
that abnormal phenomenon. There was no observer of it e 
the two indi victuals who alternately bent the bow, shooting v 
a single arrow ; and by them it was undeMtood. 

" Love laughs at locksmiths." The old adage is scarce sui 
to Texas, where lockmaking is an unknown trade. 

" Where there's a will, there's a way," expresses pretty m 
the same sentiment, appropriate to all time and every pL 
Never was it more correctly illustratt»d than in that excha 
of bow-shots across the channel of the Leona. 

Louise Poindexter had the will ; Maurice Gerald had sugges 
tho way. 



CHAPTER XXXI. 

A STRE-cUI CLEVERLY CROSSED. 



The snofittary correspondence could not last for long. T 
are but lukewarm lovera who can content themselves witl 
dialogue earned on at bowshot distance. Hearts brimfiil 



A STREAM CLEYEBLT CROSSED. 155 

passion must beat and bom together — in close proximity — each 
feeling the pnlsation of the other. '^ If there be an El jsiam on 
earth, it is this ! " 

Manrice Gerald was not the man — ^nor Louise Poindexter the 
TToman — to shnn such a consummation. 

It came to pass : not under the tell-tale light of the sun, but 
in the lone hour of midnight, when but the stars could have 
been witnesses of their social dereliction. 

Twice had they stood together in that garden grove — twice 
liad they exchanged love vows — ^under the steel-grey light of 
the stars ; and a third interview had been arranged between 
them. 

Little suspected the proud planter — perhaps prouder of his 
daughter than anything else ho possessed — that she was daily 
engaged in an act of rebellion — the wildest against which 
parental authority may pronounce itself. 

His own daughter — his only daughter — of the best blood of 
Southern aristocracy; beautiful, accomplished, everything to 
secure him a splendid alliance — ^holding nightly assignation with 
«k horse-hunter ! 

Could he have but dreamt it when slumbering upon his soft 
-^ouch, the dream would have startled him from his sleep like 
the call of the eternal trumpet ! 

He had no suspicion — not the slightest. The thing was too 
improbable — too monstrous, to have given cause for one. Its 
Tcry monstrosity would have disarmed him, had the thought 
T)een suggested. 

He had been pleased at his daughter's compliance with his lato 
injunctions ; though he would have preferred her obeying them 
to the letter, and riding out in company with her brother or 
cousin — ^^vhich she still declined to do. This, however, he did 
not insist upon. He could well concede so much to her caprice : 
since her staying at home could be no disadvantage to the cause 
that had prompted him to the stem counsel. 

Her ready obedience had almost influenced him to regret the 
prohibition. Walking in confidence by day, and sleeping in 
security by night, he fancied, it might soon bo recalled. 

• • • • • 

It was one of those nights, known only to a southern sky, 
when the full round moon rolls clear across a canopy of 
sapphire ; when the mountains have no mist, and look as 
though you could lay your hand upon them ; when the wind is 
hushed, and the broad leaves of the tropical trees droop motion- 
less from their boughs ; themselves silent, as if listening to the 
concert of singular sounds carried on in their midst, and in 
which mingle the voices of living creatures Ijolonging to every 
department of animated nature — beast, bird, reptile, and insect. 

Such a night was it, as you would select for a stroll in 
company with the being — the one and only being — who, by the 



156 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

mysterious dictation of Nature, has entwined herself aronnd 
your heart — a night upon which you feel a wayward long- 
ing to liavc white arms entwined around your neck, and bright 
eyes before your face, with that voluptuous gleaming that can 
only be felt to perfection under the mystic light of the moon. 

It was long after the infantry drum had b^ten tatoo, and the 
cavalry bugle sounded the signal for the garrison of Fort Inge 
to go to bed — in fact it was much nearer the hour of mid- 
night — when a horseman rode away from the door of Ober- 
dofler's hotel ; and, taking the do^vn-river road, was soon lost to 
the sight of tlie latest loiterer who might have been strolling 
through the streets of the village. 

It is already known, that this road passed the hacienda of 
Casa del Corvo, at some distance from the house, and on the 
opposite side of the river. It is also known that at the same 
place it traversed a stretch of open prairie, with only a piece 
of copsewood midway between two extensive tracts of chap- 
paral. 

This clump of isolated timber, known in prairie parlance as 
a " motte " or " island " of timber, stood by the side of the 
road, alon<]^ wliicli the horseman had continued, after taking his 
departure I'roin the village. 

On reaching the copse he dismounted; led his horse in 
among the underwood ; " hitched " him, by looping his bridle 
rein around the topmost twigs of an elastic bough ; then de- 
taching a long rope of twisted horsehair from the " horn " of 
his saddle, and inserting liis arm into its coil, he glided out to 
the edge of the " island," on that side that lay towards the 
hacienda. 

Before forsaking the shadow of the copse, he cast a glance 
towards tlic sky, and at the moon sailing supremely over it. 
It was a glance of inquiry, ending in a look of chagrin, with 
some mutt<,'red phrases that rendered it more emphatic. 

" No use waiting for that beauty to go to bed ? She's made 
up her mind, she won't go home till morning — ha ! ha ! " 

The droll conceit, which has so oft amused the nocturnal 
inebriate of great cities, appeared to produce a like effect upon 
the nigbt patroUer of the prairie ; and for a moment the shadow, 
late darkening his brow, disappeared. It returned anon ; as 
he stood gazing across the open space that separated liim from 
the river bottom — beyond which lay the hacienda of Casa del 
Corvo, clearly outlined upon the opposite bluff. 

" If there should be any one stirring about the place ? It's not 
likely at this hour ; unless it be the owner of a bad conscience 
who can't sleep. Troth ! there's one such witliin those walls. 
If he be abroad there's a good chance of his seeing me on the 
open ground ; not that I should care a straw, if it were only 
myself to be compromised. By Saint Patrick, I see no 
alternative but risk it ! It's no use waiting upon the moon» 



A 8TB1AM CLEYSRLT CROSSED. 157 

deuce take her ! She don't go down for hours ; and there's not 
the sign of a cloud. It won't do to keep her waiting. No ; I 
must chance it in the clear light. Here goes ! " 

Saying this, with a swift but stealthy step, the dismounted 
Norseman glided across the treeless tract, and soon reached the 
escarpment of the cliff, that formed the second height of 
land rising above the channel of the Leoua. 

He did not stay ten seconds in this conspicuous situation ; 
Imt by a path that zigzagged down the bluff — and with which he 
appeared familiar — ^he descended to the river " bottom." 

In an instant aflcr he stood upon the bank ; at the convexity 
of the river's bend, and directly opposite the spot where a 
skiff was moored, under the sombre shadow of a gigantic cotton- 
tree. 

For a short while he stood gazing across the stream, with a 
glance that told of scrutiny. He was scanning the shrubbery 
on the other side ; in the endeavour to make out, whether any 
one was concealed beneath its sliadow. 

Becoming satisfied that no one was there, he raised the loop- 
end of his lazo — for it was this he carried over his arm — and 
giving it half a dozen whirls in the air, cast it across the 
stream. 

The noose settled over the cutwater of the skiff; and, closing 
around the stem, enabled him to tow the tiny craft to the side 
on which he stood. 

Stepping in, he took hold of a pair of oars that lay along the 
planking at the bottom ; and, placing them between the thole- 
pins, pidled the boat back to its moorings. 

Leaping out, he secured it as it had been before, against the 
drift of the current ; and then, taking stand under the shadow 
of the cotton-tree, he appeared to await either a signal, or the 
appearance of some one, expected by appointment. 

His manoeuvres up to this moment, had tlicy been observed, 
might have rendered him amenable to the suspicion that ho was 
a housebreaker, about to "crack the crib " of Casa del Cor\-o. 

The phrases that fell from his lips, however, could they have 
been heard, would have absolved him of any such vilo or vulgar 
intention. It is true he ha<l designs upon the hacienda; but 
these did not contemplate either its cash, plate, or jewellery — 
if we except the most precious jewel it contained — the mistress 
of the mansion herself. 

It is scarce necessary to say, that the man who had hidden his 
horse in tlie "niotte," and so cleverly eflected tlic crossing of 
the stream, was Maurice the mustanger. 



158 
CHAPTER XXXn. 

LIGHT AND SHADE. 

He bad not long to chafe under the tiysting-tree, if snch it 
were. At the vciy moment when he was stepping into the skiff, 
a casement window that looked to the rear of the hacienda com- 
menced taming upon its hinges, and was then for a time held 
slightly ajar; as if some one inside was intending to issue 
forth, and only hesitated in order to bo assured that tho " coast 
was clear." 

A small white hand — decorated with jewels that glistened 
under the light of the moon — grasping the sash, told that the 
individual who had opened the window was of the gentler sex ; 
the tapering fingers, with their costly garniture, proclaimed her a 
lady ; wliile the majestic figure — soon after exhibited outside, on 
the top of tho stairway that led down to the garden — could be 
no other than that of Louise Poindexter. 

It was she. 

For a second or two the lady stood listening. She heard, 
or fancied she heard, the dip of an oar. She might be mis- 
taken ; for the stridulation of the cicadas filled the atmosphere 
with confused sound. No matter. The hour of assignation 
had arrived ; and she was not the one to stand upon punctilios 
as to time — especially after spending two hours of solitary 
expectation in her chamber, that had appeared like as many 
days. 

With noiseless tread descending the stone stairway, she glided 
sylph-like among the statues and shrubs ; until, arriving under 
the shadow of tho cotton-wood, she flung herself into arms 
eagerly outstretched to receive her. 

Who can desciibe the sweetness of such embrace — strange to 
say, sweeter from being stolen ? Who can paint the delicious 
emotions experienced at such a moment — too sacred to be 
touched by the pen ? 

It is only after long throes of pleasure had passed, and the 
lovers had begun to convei-se in the more sober language of life, 
that it becomes proper, or even possil^le to report them. 

Thus did they speak to each other, the lady taking the initia- 
tive : — 

" To-morrow night you will meet me again — to-morrow night, 
dearest Maurice 'r " 

" To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow — if I were firee 
to say the word.'' 

** And why not ? Why are you not free to say it ? " 

*' To-nioiTow, by break of day, I am off for the Alamo." 

" Indeed ! Is it imperative you should go ? " 



LIGHT AND SHADE. 159 

The interrogatory was put in a tone that betrayed displeasure. 
A vision of a sinister kind always came before the mind of 
Louise Poindexter at mention of the lone hnt on the Alamo. 

And why? It had afforded her hospitality. One would 
suppose that her visit to it could scarce fail to be one of the 
pleasantest recollections of her life. And yet it was not ! 

"I have excellent reasons for going," was the reply she 
received. 

" Excellent reasons ! Do you expect to meet any one there ? *^ 

" My follower Phelim — ^no one else. I hope the poor fellow 
is still above the grass. I sent him out about ten days ago— 
before there was any tidings of these Indian troubles." 

"Only Phelim you expect to meet? Is it true, Gerald P 
Dearest ! do not deceive mc ! Only him ? " 

" Why do you ask the question, Louise ? " 

" I cannot tell you why. I should die of shame to speak my 
secret thoughts." 

" Do not fear to speak them ! I could keep no secret from 
you — in truth I could not. So tell me what it is, love ! " 

" Do you wish me, Maurice ? " 

" I do — of course I do. I feel sure that whatever it may 
he, I shall be able to explain it. I know that my relations with 
you are of a questionable character ; or might be so deemed, if 
the world knew of them. It is for that very reason I am going 
hack to the Alamo." 

"And to stay there?" 

" Only for a single day, or two at most. Only to gather up 
my household gods, and bid a last adieu to my prairie life." 

"Indeed!" 

"You appear surprised ? " 

" No ! only mystified. I cannot comprehend you. Perhaps I 
never shall ! " 

" 'Tis very simple — the resolve I have taken. I know you 
will forgive me, when I make it known to you." 

" Forgive you, ^laurice ! For what do you ask forgiveness ? " 

" For keeping it a secret from you, that — that I am not what 
I seem." 

" God forbid you should be otherwise than what you seem to 
me — noble, grand, beautiful, rare among men ! Oh, Maurice ! 
you know not how I esteem — how I love you ! " 

" Not more than I esteem and love you. It is that very 
esteem that now counsels me to a separation." 

" A separation ? " 

"Yes, love ; but it is to be hoped only for a short time." 

" How long ? " 

" While a steamer can cross the Atlantic, and return." 

" An age ! And why this ? " 

"I am called to my native country — Ireland, so much de- 
spised, as you already know. Tis only within the last twenty 



160 THE HEADLESS H0B8EHAN. 

hours I received the summons. I obey it the more eageilj, that 
it tells me I shall be able soon to return, and prove to your 
proud father that the poor horse-hunter who won his daughter's 
heart have I won it, Louise ? " 

" Idle questioner ! Won it ? You know you have more than 
won it — conquered it to a subjection from which it can never 
escape. Mock mo not, Maurice, nor my stricken heart — ^hence- 
forth, and for evermore, your slave ! " 

During the rapturous embrace that followed this passionate 
speech, by which a higlibom and beautiful maiden confessed to 
having surrendered herself — heart, soul, and body — to the man 
who had made conquest of her affections, there was silence per- 
fect and profound. 

The grasshopi)er amid the green herbage, the cicada on the 
tree- leaf, the mock-bird on the top of the tall cotton- wood, and 
the nightjar soaring still higher in the moonlit air, apparently 
actuated by a simultaneous instinct, ceased to give utterance to 
their peculiar cries : as though one and all, by their silence, 
designed to do honour to the sacred ceremony transpiring in 
their presence ! 

But that temporary cessation of sounds was due to a different 
cause. A footstep grating upon the gravelled walk of the 
garden — and yet touching it so lightly, that only an acute ear 
could have perceived the contact — was the real cause why 
the nocturnal voices had suddenly become stilled. 

The lovers, absorbed in tho sweet interchange of a mutual 
affection, heard it not. Tliey saAv not that dark shadow, in the 
sliape of man or devil, flitting among the flowers^ now standing 
by a statue, now cowering under cover of the shrubbery, until 
at Icngtli it became stationaiy beliind the trunk of a tree, scarce 
ten paces from the spot where they were kissing each other ! 

Little did they suspect, in that moment of celestial happiness 
when all nature was hushed around them, that the silence was 
exposing their passionate speeches, and the treacherous moon, 
at the same time, betraying their excited actions. 

That shadowy listener, croucliing guilty-like behind the ti'ce, 
was a witness to both. Within easy eai*shot, he could hear 
every word — even the sighs and soft low murmurings of their 
love ; while under the silvery light of the moon, with scarce a 
sprig coming between, he could detect their slightest gestures. 

It is scarce neccssaiy to give the name of the dastardly eaves- 
dropper. That of Cassius Calhoun will have suggested itself. 

It was he. 



161 
CHAPTER XXXIII. 

A TORTURING DISCOVERY. 

How came the cousin of Louise Poindexter to be astir at that 
late honr of the night, or, as it was now, the earliest of the 
xuoming ? Had he been forewarned of this interview of the 
lovers ; or was it merely some instinctive suspicion that had 
caused him to forsake his sleeping-chamber, and make a tour of 
inspection within the precincts of the garden ? 

In other words, was he an eavesdropper by accident, or a spy 
acting upon information previously communicated to him ? 

The former was the fact. Chance alone, or chance aided by a 
clear night, had given liim the clue to a discovery that now 
filled his soul with the fires of hell. 

Standing upon the housetop at the hour of midnight — what 
had taken him up there cannot be guessed — ^breathing vile 
tobacco-smoke into an atmosphere before perfumed with the 
scent of the night-blooming cereiis, the ex-captain of cavalry 
did not appear distressed by any particular anxiety. He had 
recovered Irom the injuries received in his encounter with the 
mustanger ; and although that bit of evil fortune did not fail to 
excite within him the blackest chagrin, whenever it came up 
before his mind, its bitterness had been, to some extent, coimter- 
«icted by hopes of revenge — towards a plan for which he had 
already made some progress. 

Equally with her father, he had been gratified that Louise 
ivas contented of late to stay within doors : for it was himself 
who had secretly suggested the prohibition to her going abroad. 
Equally had he remained ignorant as to the motive of that 
garden archery, and in a similar manner had misconceived it. In 
fact, he had begun to flatter himself, that, after all, her indiflfer- 
ence to himself might be only a feint on the part of his cousin, 
or an illasion upon his. She had been less cynical for some 
days ; and this had produced upon him the pleasant impression, 
that he might have been mistaken in his jealous fears. 

He had as yet discovered no positive proof tliat she enter- 
tained a partiality for the young Irishman ; and as the days 
passed without any renewed cause for disquiet, he began to 
believe that in reality there was none. 

Under the soothing influence of this restored confidence, had 
he mounted up to the azotca ; and, although it was the hour of 
midnight, the careless insouciance witli wliich he applied the 
light to his cigar, and afterwards stood smoking it, showed that 
he could not have come there for any very important purpose. 
It may have been to exchange the sultry atmosphei'c of his 
sleeping-room for the fresher air outside ; or he may have been 



162 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAK. 

tempted forth by the magnificent moon — though he was not 
much given to such romantic contemplation. 

Whatever it was, he had lighted his cigar, and was apparently 
enjoying it, with his arms crossed upon the coping of the 
parapet, and his face turned towards the river. 

It did not disturb his tranquillity to see a horseman ride out 
from the chapparal on the opposite side, and proceed onward 
across the open plain. 

He knew of the road that was there. Some traveller, he sup- 
posed, who preferred taking advantage of the cool hours of the 
night — a night, too, that would have tempted the weariest way- 
farer to continue his journey. It might be a planter who lived 
below, returning homo from the village, after lounging an hour 
too long in the tavern saloon. 

In daytime, the individual might have been identified; by 
the moonlight, it could only be made out that there was a man 
on horseback. 

The eyes of the ex- officer accompanied him as he trotted along 
the road; but simply with mechanical movement, as one 
musingly contemplates some common waif drifting down the 
current of a river. 

It was only after the horseman had arrived opposite the island 
of timber, and was seen to pull up, and then ride into it, that 
the spectator upon the housetop became stirred to take an 
interest in his movements. 

" What the devil can that mean ? " muttered Calhoun to him- 
self, as ho hastily plucked the cigar stump from between his 
teeth. " D — n the man, he's dismounted ! " continued he, as 
the stranger re-appeared, on foot, by the inner edge of the 
copse. 

"And coming this way — towards the bend of the river — 
straight as ho can streak it! 

" Down the ])luft'— into the bottom — and with a stride that 
shows him well acquainted with the way. Surely to God he 
don't intend making his way across into the garden ? He*d 
have to swim for that ; and anything he could get there would 
scai-ce pay him for liis pains. AVliat the old Scratch can be his 
int<?ntion? A thief?'* 

This was Calhoun's first idea — rejected almost as soon as con- 
ceived. It is true that in Spanish- American countries even the 
beggar goes on horseback. Much more might the thief? 

For all this, it was scarce probable, that a man would make a 
midnight expedition to steal fruit, or vegetables, in such cavalier 
style. 

What else could he be after ? 

The odd manoeuvre of leaving his horse under cover of the 
copse, and coming forward on foot, and apparently with caution, 
as far as could bo seen in the uncertain hght, was of itself 
evidence that the man's errand could scarce be honest, and 



A TOBTURINQ DISGOYEBT. 163 

that ho was approaching the premises of Casa del Corro with 
some evil design. 

What conld it be ? 

Since leaving the upper plain he had been no longer visible to 
Calhonn npon the housetop. The under^'ood skirting the 
stream on the opposite side, and into wliich he had entered, was 
concealing him. 

" What can the man be after ? " 

After putting this interrogatory to himself, and for about the 
ienth time— each with increasing emphasis — the composure of 
the ex-captain was still further disturbed by a sound that 
Teached his car, exceedingly like a plunge in the river. It was 
slight, but clearly the concussion of some hard substance 
brought in contact 'with water. 

" The stroke of an oar," muttered he, on hearing it. " Is, by 
ihe holy Jehovah ! He's got hold of the skiflT, and *s crossing 
over to the garden. . What on earth can he be after ? " 

The questioner did not intend staying on the housetop to 
determine. His thought was to slip silently downstam — 
rouse the male members of the family, along with some of 
the servants ; and attempt to capture the intruder by a clever 
ambuscade. 

He had raised his arm from the copestone, and was in the act 
of stepping back from the parapet, when his car was saluted by 
another sound, that caused him again to lean forward and look 
into the garden below. 

This new noise bore no resemblance to the stroke of an oar ; 
nor did it proceed from the direction of the river. It was 
the creaking of a door as it turned- upon its hinge, or, what 
is much the- same, a casement window ; while it came from 
below — almost directly underneath the spot where the listener 
stood. 

On craning over to ascertain the cause, he saw, what blanched 
his cheeks to the whiteness of the moonlight that shone upon 
them — what sent the blood curdling through every comer of 
his heart. 

The casement that had been opened was that which be- 
longed to the bed-chamber of his cousin Louise. He knew it. 
The lady herself was standing outside upon the steps that led 
to tlie level of the garden, her face turned downward, as if she 
was meditating a descent. 

Loosely attired in white, as though in the neglige of a robe 
de chamhre, Avith only a small kerchief coifed over her crown, 
she resembled some fair nymph of the night, some daughter of 
the moon, whom Luna delighted to surround with a silvery 
effulgence 1 

Calhoun reasoned rapidly. He could not do otherwise than 
connect her appearance outside the casement with the advent 
of the man who was making his way across the river. 



164 THE HEADLESS HOBSEHAK. 

And who could this man be P Who but Maurice the mus- 
tanger? 

A clandestine meeting ! And by appointment ! 

There could be no doubt of it ; and if there had, it would 
have been dissolved, at seeing the white-robed figure glide noise- 
lessly down the stone steps, and along the grayelled walks, till 
it at length disappeared among the trees that shadowed the 
mooring-place of the skiflT. 

Like one paralyzed with a powerful stroke, the ex-captain 
continued for some time upon the azotea — speechless and without 
motion. It was only after the white drapery had disappeared, 
and he heard the low murmur of voices rising from among the 
trees, that he was stimulated to resolve upon some course of 
proceeding. 

He thought no longer of awaking the inmates of the house 
— at least not then. Better first to bo himself the sole witness 
of his cousin's disgrace ; and then — and then 

In short, he was not in a state of mind to form any definite) 
plan ; and, acting solely under the blind stimulus of a fell in- 
stinct, he hurried down the escalera, and made his way through 
•the house, and out into the garden. 

He felt feeble as he pressed forward. His legs had tottered 
under him wliile descending the stone steps. They did the 
same as ho glided along the gravelled walk. They continued 
to tremble as he crouched behind the tree trunk tlmt hindered 
him from being seen — wliilc playing spectator of a scene that 
afflicted him to the utmost depths of his soul. 

He heard their vows ; their mutual confessions of love ; the 
determination of the mustanger to be gone by the break of the 
morrow's day ; as also his promise to return, and the revelation 
to which that promise led. 

With bitter chagrin, he heard how this determination was 
combated by Louise, and the reasons why she at length ap- 
peared to consent to it. 

He was witness to that final and rapturous embrace, that 
caused him to strike his foot nervously against the pebbles, and 
make that noise that had scared the cicadas into silence. 

Why at that moment did he not spring forward — put a ter- 
mination to the intolerable iete-a-tete — and with a blow of his 
bowie-knife lay his rival low — at his ovm. feet and that of his 
mistress ? Why had he not done this at the beginning — for to 
him there needed no further evidence, than the interview itself, 
to prove that his cousin had been dishonoured ? 

There was a time when he would not have been so patient. 
What, then, was the imncliUo that restrained him ? Was it the 
presence of that ])iece of perfect mechanism, that, with a sheen 
of steel, glistened upon the person of his rival, and which, 
under the bright moonbeams, could be distinguished as a ** Colt's 
six-shooter? '* 



A TORTURING DISCOVERT. 165 

Perhaps it may have been. At all events, despite the terrible 
temptation to which his soul was submitted, something not onlj 
hindered him from taking on immediate vengeance, but in the 
mid-moments of that maddening spectacle — the final embrace- 
prompted him to turn away from the spot, and with an earnest- 
ness, even keener than he had yet exhibited, hurry back in the 
direction of the house: leaving the lovers, still unconscious 
of having been observed, to bring their sweet interview to an 
ending — sure to be procrastinated. 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 

A CHIVALROUS DICTATION. 

Where went Cassius Calhoun ? 

Certainly not to his own sleeping-room. There was no sleep 
for a spirit suffering like his. 

He went not there ; but to the chamber of his cousin. Not 
hers — ^now untenanted, with its couch unoccupied, its coverlet 
undisturbed — but to tJiat of her brother, young Henry Poin- 
dexter. 

He went direct as crooked corridors would permit him — in 
haste, without waiting to avail himself of the assistance of a 
candle. 

It was not needed. The moonbeams penetrating through the 
open bars of the reja^ filled the chamber with light — sufficient 
for his purpose. They disclosed the outlines of the apartment, 
with its simple furniture — a washstand, a dressing-table, a 
couple of chairs, and a bed with " mosquito curtains." 

Under these last was the youth reclining; in that sweet 
silent slumber experienced only by the innocent. His finely 
formed head rested calmly upon the pillow, over wliich lay 
scattered a profusion of shining curls. 

As Calhoun lifted the muslin "bar," the moonbeams fell 
upon his face, displaying its outlines of the manliest aristocratic 
type. 

What a contrast between those two sets of features, brought 
into such close proximity ! Both physically handsome ; but 
morally, as Hyperion to the Satyr. 

" Awake, Harry ! awake ! " was the abrupt salutation extended 
to the sleeper, accompanied by a violent shaking of his 
shoulder. 

" Oh ! ah ! you, cousin Cash ? What is it ? Not the IndianSi 
I hope?" 

" Worse than that — worse ! worse ! Quick ! Rouse yourself^ 
and see ! Quick, or it will be too late ! Quick, and bo the 



166 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

witness of yonr 0'v\'n disgrace — the dishonour of yonr house. 
Quick, or the name of Poindexter will be the laughing-stock 
of Texas!" ' 

After such summons there could be no inclination for sloep— 
at least on the part of a Poindexter ; and at a single bound, the 
youngest representative of the family cleared the mosquito 
curtains, and stood upon his feet in the middle of the floor 
—in an attitude of speechless astonishment. 

"Don't wait to di*ess," cried his excited counsellor, "stay, you 
may put on your pants. D — n the clothes ! There's no time for 
standing upon trillos. Quick ! Quick ! " 

The simple costume the young planter was accustomed to 
wear, consisting of trousers and Creole blouse of Attakapas 
cotlonadej were adjusted to liis person in less than twenty 
seconds of time ; and in twenty more, obedient to the command 
of his cousin — without understanding why ho] had been so un- 
ceremoniously summoned forth — ho was hurrying along the 
gravelled walks of the garden. 

" What is it, Cash ? " he inquired, as soon as the latter showed 
signs of coming to a stop. " What does it all mean ? *' 

" See for yourself! Stand close to me ! Look through yonder 
opening in the trees that leads dovm to the place where yonr 
skiflT is kept. Do you see an}i;hing there ? " 

"Something white. It looks like a woman's dress. It is 
that. It's a woman ! " 

" It is a woman. Who do you suppose she is ? " 

" I can't tell. Who do you say she is ? " 

" There's another figure — a dark one — l)y her side." 

" It appears to be a man ? It is a man ! " 

" And who do you suppose he is ? " 

" How should I know, cousin Cash ? Do you ? " 

'* I do. That man is Maurice the mustanger ! " 

" And the woman ? " 

" Is Louise — 1/our sister — 171 hi^ arms I " 

As if a shot had stnick him tlux)ugh the heart, the brother 
bounded upward, and then onward, along the path. 

" Stay !" said Calhoun, catching hold of, and restraining him. 
" You forget that you ai-e unarmed ! The fellow, I know, has 
weapons upon him. Take this, and tliis," continued ho, passing 
his own knife and pistol into the hands of his cousin. " I should 
have used them myself, long ere this ; but I thought it better 
tlmt you — her brother — should be the avenger of your sister's 
wrongs. On, my boy ! See that you don't hurt her ; but take 
care not to lose the chance at him. Don't give him a word of 
warning. As soon as they are separated, send a bullet into his 
belly; and if all six should fail, go at him with the knife. I'll 
stay near, and take care of you, if you should get into danger.^ 
Now ! Steal upon him, and give the scoundrel h — ^l ! " 

It needed not this blasphemous injunction to inspire Henry 



A CHIVALBOUS DICTATION. 167 

•Poindexter to hasty action. The brother of a sister — a beautifol 
sister — erring, undone ! 

In six seconds he was by her side, confronting her supposed 
seducer. 

" Low villain ! '* he cried, " unclasp your loathsome arm from 
the waist of my sister. Louise ! stand aside, and give me a 
chance of killing him ! Aside, sister ! Aside, I say ! " 

Had the command been obeyed, it is probable that Maurice 
Gerald would at that moment have ceased to exist — ^unless he 
had found heart to kill Henry Poindexter ; which, experienced 
as he was in the use of his six-shooter, and prompt in its mani- 
pulation, he might have done. 

Listead of drawing the pistol from its holster, or taking any 
steps for defence, he appeared only desirous of disengaging 
himself from the fair arms still clinging around him, and for 
whose owner he alone felt alarm. 

For Henry to fire at the supposed betrayer, was to risk taking 
his sister's life ; and, restrained by the fear of this, he paused 
before pulling trigger. 

That pause produced a crisis favourable to the safety of all 
three. The Creole girl, with a quick perception of the circum- 
stances, suddenly released her lover from the protecting em- 
brace ; and, almost in the same instant, threw her arms around 
those of her brother. She knew there was nothing to be appre- 
hended from the pistol of Maurice. Henry alone had tJ) be 
held doing mischief. 

" Go, go ! " she shouted to the former, while struggling to 
restrain fiie infuriated youth. " My brother is deceived by 
appearances. Leave me to explain. Away, Maurice ! away ! " 

" Henry Poindexter," said the young L'ishman, as he turned 
to obey the friendly command, " I am not the sort of villain you 
have been pleased to pronounce me. Give me but time, and I 
shall prove, that your sister has formed a truer estimate of my 
character than either her father, brother, or cousin. I claim 
but six months. If at the end of that time I do not show 
myself worthy of her confidence — ^her love — tlien shall I make 
you welcome to shoot mo at sight, as you would the cowardly 
coyote, that chanced to cross your track. Till then, I bid you 
adieu." 

Henry's struggle to escape from his sister's arms — perhaps 
stronger than his own — grew less energetic as he listened to 
these words. They became feebler and feebler — at length ceasing 
•—when a plunge in the river announced that the midnight 
intruder into the enclosed grounds of Casa del Corvo was on 
his way back to the wild prairies he had chosen for his home. 

It was the first time he had recrossed the river in that 
primitive fashion. On the two previous occasions he had passed 
over in the skiff; which had been drawn back to its moorings 
by a delicate hand, the tow-rope consisting of that tiny 



168 THE HEADLESS H0RSE3IAK. 

lazo tliat had formed part of the caparison presented along 
with the spotted mustang. 

" Brother ! yon arc wronging him ! indeed you are wronging 
him ! " were the words of expostulation that followed close 
upon his departure. "Oh, Henry — dearest Hal, if yon but 
knew how noble he is ! So far from desiring to do me an in- 
jury, *tis only this moment he has been disclosing a plan to — 
to— prevent — scandal — I mean to make me happy. Believe 
me, brother, he is a gentleman ; and if he were not — ^if only 
the common man you take him for — I could not help what I 
have done — I could not, for Hove him ! *' 

" Louise ! tell me the truth ! Speak to me, not as to your 
brother, but as to your o^vn self. From what I have this night 
seen, more than from your o^vn words, I know that you love 
this man. Has he taken advantage of your — your — unfortunate 
passion ? " 

" No — no — no. As I live he has not. He is too noble for 
that — even liad I — Henry ! he is innocent ! If there be cause for 
regret, I alone am to blame. Why — oh ! brother ! why did you 
insult him ? " 

** Have I done so ? " 

" You have, Henry — rudely, grossly.** 

" I shall go after, and apologize. If you speak truly, sister, I 
owe him tliat much. I shall go this instant. I liked him from 
the first — you know I did ? I could not believe him capable of a 
cowardly act. I can*t now. Sister ! come back into the house 
with mo. And now, dearest Loo ! you had better go to bed. 
As for mo, I shall be off instanfer to the hotel, where I may still 
hope to overtake him. I cannot rest till I have made reparation 
for my nidenoss.'* 

So spoke the forgiving brother ; and gently leading his sister 
by the hand, with thoughts of compassion, but not the slightest 
trace of anger, he hastily returned to the hacienda — intending to 
go after the young Irishman, and apologize for the use of words 
that, under the circumstances, might have been deemed ex- 
cusable. 

As the two disappeared within the door^-ay, a third figure, 
hitherto crouching among the shimbbery, was seen to rise erect, 
and follow them up the stone steps. This last was their cousin, 
Cassius Calhoun. 

He, too, had thoughts of ffoinj after the mustanger. 



1(50 
CHAPTER XXXV. 

AN U X COURTEOUS II S T. 

** The chicken-hearted fool ! Fool myself, to have trusted to 
such a hope ! I might have known she'd cajole the young calf, 
and let the sconndrel escape. I could have shot him from behind 
the tree — dead as a dro'wned rat ! And without risking anything 
— even disgrace ! Not a particle of risk. Uncle Woodley would 
have thanked me — the whole settlement would have said I had 
done right. My cousin, a young lady, betrayed by a common 
scamp — a horse trader — who would have said a word against 
it ? Such a chance ! Wliy have I missed it ? Death and the 
devil — it may not trump up again ! " 

Such were the reflections of the cx-eaptain of cavalry, while 
at some paces distance following his two cousins on their return 
to the hacienda. 

•* I wonder," muttered he, on re-entering the imtio, " whether 
the blubbering baby be in earnest ? Going ai'tcr to apologize to 
the man who has made a fool of his sister ! Ha — ha ! It would 
bo a good joke were it not too serious to be laughed at. He- 
is in earnest, else why that row in the stable ? 'Ti.s he bringing 
out his horse ! It is, by the Almighty ! '* 

The door of the stable, as is customary in ^Icxican haciendas, 
opened upon the paved patio. 

It was standing ajar ; but just as Calhoun turned his eye upon 
it, a man coming from the inside pushed it wide 0]>en ; and 
then stepped over the threshold, with a saddled horse following 
dose after him. 

The man had a Panama hat upon his hend, and a cloak 
thrown loosely around his shoulders. This did not hinder 
Calhoun from recognizing his cousin Ucniy, as also the dark- 
brown horse that belonged to him. 

"Fool! So — ^}'ou'vo let him off?" spitefully muttered the 
ex-captain, as the other came Avithin whispering tlistance. ** Give 
me back my bowie and pistol. They're not toys suiU'd to such 
delicate fingers as yours ! Bah ! Why did you not use them as 
I told you ? You've made a mess of it I "' 

" I have," tranquilly responded tlic younc^ ]>limtor. ** I know 
it. I've insulted — nud grossly too — a noMe follow." 

"Insulted a noble fellow! Ha — ha— ha! You're mad — by 
heavens, youVe mad ! " 

"I should have bcon had I followed your counsel, cousin 
Cash. Fortunately I did not go so far. I have done enoiiLch to 
deserve being called worse tlian fool; though perhaps, under 
the circumstances, I may obtain fonriveucss for my fault. At 
all events, I intend to try for it, and vrithout losing time." 

I 



170 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAX. 

" Wlierc arc yon going ? " 

" After Mfiurice the niustanger — to apologize to liim for my 
niisconclnct." 

" ^lisconduct ! Ha — La — lia ! Surel}' yon are joking ? " 

** Xo. I'm in earnest. If yon come along \nth me, yon shall 
Kce ! " 

" Then I say again yon arc mad ! Not only mad, but a d d 

natural-born idiot ! yon arc, by J s C 1 and General 

Jackson ! " 

*' You're not vciy polite, cousin Casli ; though, after the lan- 
guage I've l>ccn lately using myself, I might excuse you. Perhaps 
you will one day imitate me, and make amends for your 
mdcness." 

"Without adding another word, the young gentleman — one of 
tlie somewhat rare types of Southern chivahy — sprang to his 
saddle ; gave the word to his horse ; and rode hurriedly through 
the sanuan. 

Calhoun stood upon the stones, till the footfall of the hoi'so 
became but faintly distinguishal)le in the distance. 

Then, as if acting under some sudden impulse, he hurried along 
the verandah to his o\vn room ; entered it ; reappeared in a 
rough overcoat ; crossed back to the stable ; wont in ; came out 
again with his own horse saddled and bridled ; led the animal 
along the pavement, as gently as if he was stealing him ; and 
once outside upon the turf, sprang upon his back, and rode 
rapidly aAvay. 

For a mile or more he followed the same road that had been 
taken by Henry Poindexter. It could not have been with 
any idea of overtaking the latter : since, long before, the hoof- 
strokes of Henry's horse had ceased to be heard ; and pro- 
ceeding at a slower pace, Calhomi did not ride as if he cared 
about catching up with his cousin. 

He had taken tlic up-river road. TTlien about midway between 
Casa del Corvo and the Fort, he reined up ; and, after scrutinizing 
the chapparal around liim, struck off by a bridle-path leading 
back toAvard the bank of the river. As he turned into it be 
might have been heai'd muttering to himself, — 

" A chance still left ; a good one, though not so cheap as the 
other. It will cost rae a thousand dollars. What of that, so long 
as I get rid of this Irish curse, who has poLsoned every hour of 
my existence ! If true to his promise, he t^kes the route to his 
homo by an early hour in the morning. What time, I wonder. 
These men of the prairies call it late rising, if they be abed till 
daybreak ! Never mind. There's yet time for the Coyote to 
get before him on the road I I know that. It must be the 
same as we followed to the wild horse prairies. He spoke of 
his hut upon the Alamo. That's the name of the creek where 
we had our pic-nic. The hovel cannot be far from tljero ! The 
^Icxican must know the place, or the trail leading to it ; which 



AX UXCOURTEOUS HOST. 171 

last will be sufficient for liis purpose and mine. A ^g for 
the shanty itself ! The owner may never reach it. There may 
be Indians upon the road ! There mtist be, before daybreak in 
the morning ! " 

As Calhoun concluded this string of strange reflections, he 
had arrived at the door of another " shanty *' — ihat of the Mexi- 
can mustanger. The jacaU was the goal of his journey. 

Having slipped out of his saddle, and knotted his bridle to a 
branch, he set foot upon the threshold. 

The door was standing wide open. From the inside pro- 
ceeded a sound, easily identified as the snore of a slumberer. 

It was not as of one who sleeps either tranquilly, or con- 
tinuously. At short intervals it was interrupted — now by silent 
pauses — anon by hog-like gruntings, interspersed with pro- 
fane words, not perfectly pronounced, but slurred from a tliick 
tongue, over which, but a short while before, must have passed a 
stupendous quantity of alcohol. 

" Carrambo ! carrai ! carajo---chingara ! mil diablos ! " mingled 
with more — perhaps less — reverential exclamations of ^^ Sangre 
de Crista ! Jesus I Santissima Virgen ! Santa Maria ! Bios ! 
Madre de Dios ! " and the like, were uttered inside the jacale, 
as if the speaker was engaged in an apostrophic coiivcrsation 
with all the principal characters of the Popish Pantheon. 

Calhoun paused upon the threshold, and listened. 

^^Mal — dit — dit — o ! '* ^muttered the sleeper, concluding the 
exclamation with a hiccup. ^^ JBuen — htienos nove — lad-res! 
Good news, por sangre Chrees-^Chreest — o I 8i S*nor Merican — 
canol Nove—dad — es s^perhos! Los Indi/os Co — co — manchees on 
the war-trail — el rostra de guerra, God bless the Co — co — man- 
chees ! " 

" The brute's drunk ! " said his visitor, mechanically speaking 
aloud. 

" S*la 8*nor ! " exclaimed the owner of the jacaU, aroused to 
a state of semi-consciousness by the sound of a haman voice. 
*' QiUen llama ! Who has the honour — that is, have I the hap- 
piness — I, Miguel Diaz — el Co — coyote, as the leperos call me. 
Ha, ha ! coyo— coyot. Bah ! what's in a name ? Yours, S'nor ? 
Mil demonias I who are you ? " 

Partially raising himself from his reed couch, the inebriate 
remained for a short time in a sitting attitude — glaring, half 
interrogatively, half unconsciously, at the indi^^duai whose voice 
had intruded itself into hLs drunken dreams. 

The unsteady examination lasted only for a score of seconds . 
Then the owner of the jacale^ with an unintclligiblo speech, 
subsided into a recumbent position ; when a savap^e grunt, suc- 
ceeded by a prolonged snore, proved him to have become oblivious 
to the fact that his domicile contained a guest. 

"Another chance lost!*' said the latter, hissing the words 
through his teeth, as he turned disappointedly from the door. 

I 2 



172 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

" A sober fool and a dmnken knave — two precions tools where- 
with to accomplish a purpose like mine ! Curse the luck ! AU 
this night it's been against me ! It may be three long hours 
before this pig sleeps off the swill that has stupefied him. Three 
long hours, and then what would be the use of him ? 'T would 
be too late — too late ! 

As he said this, he caught the rein of his bridle, and stood by 
the head of his horse, as if uncertain what course to pursue. 

" No use my staying here ! It might be daybreak before the 

d d liquor gets out of his skull. I may as well go back to 

the hacienda and wait there ; or else — or else " 

The alternative, that at this crisis presented itself, was not 
spoken aloud. Whatever it may have been, it had the effect of 
terminating the hesitancy that hung over him, and stirring him 
to immediate action. 

Roughly tearing his rein from the branch, and passing it over 
his horse's head, he sprang into the saddle, and rode off from 
the jacaU in a direction the veiy opposite to that in which he 
had approached it. 



CHAPTER XXXVI. 

THREE TRAVELLERS ON THE SAME TRACK. 

No one can deny, that a ride upon a smooth-turfed prairie is 
one of the most positive pleasures of sublunary existence. No 
one icill deny it, who has had the good fortune to experience 
the delightful sensation. With a spirited horse between your 
thighs, a well-stocked valise strapped to the cantle of your saddle, 
a flask of French brandy slung handy over the " horn," and a 
plethoric cigar-case protruding from under the flap of your 
pistol holster, you may set forth upon a day's journey, iN-ithout 
much fear of feeling wear}' by the way. 

A friend riding by your side — like yourself alive to the 
beauties of nature, and sensitive to its sublimities — will make 
the ride, though long, and otherwise arduous, a pleasure to be 
remembered for many, many years. 

If that friend chance to be some fair creature, upon whom 
you have fixed your affections, then will you experience a delight 
to remain in your memory for ever. 

Ah ! if all prairie- ti*nvellers were to be favoured with such 
companionship, the wilderness of Western Texas would soon 
become crowded with tourists ; the great plains would cease to 
be '* pathless," — the savannas would swarm with snobs. 

'Tis belter as it is. As it is, you may launch yourself upon 
the prairie : and once beyond the precincts of the settlement 
from which you have started — unless you keep to the customary 



THREE TRAVELLERS ON THE SAME TRACK. 173 

** road," indicated only by the hoof-prints of half a dozen horse- 
men who have preceded you — yon may ride on for hours, days, 
weeks, months, perhaps a whole year, without encountering 
aught that bears the slightest resemblance to yourself, or the 
image in which you have been made. 

Only those who have traversed the great plain of Texas can 
form a true estimate of its illimitable vastness ; impressing the 
mind with sensations similar to those vfG feel in the contem^ 
plation of infinity. 

In some sense may the mariner comprehend my meaning. 
Just as a ship may cross the Atlantic Ocean — and in tracks 
most frequented by sailing craft — without sighting a single sail, 
so upon the praii'ies of South-western Texas, the traveller may 
journey on for months, amid a solitude that seems eternal ! 

Even the ocean itself does not give such an impression of 
endless space. Moving in its midst you ])erceive no change — 
no sign to tell you you are progi'essing. The broad circular sur- 
face of azure blue, with the concave hemisphere of a tint but a few 
shades lighter, are always around and above you, seeming over 
the same. You think they are so ; and fancy yourself at rest in 
the centre of a sphere and a circle. You are thus to some 
extent hindered from hai-ing a clear conception of " magnificent 
distances." 

On the prairie it is different. The " landmarks" — there are 
Buch, in the shape of " mottes," mounds, trees, ridges, and 
rocks — constantly changing before your view, admonish you 
that you are passing through space ; and this very knowledge 
imbues you with the idea of vastness. 

It is rare for the prairie traveller to contemplate such scenes 
alone — rarer still upon the plains of South-western Texas. In 
twos at least — but oflener in companies of ten or a score — go 
they, whose need it is to tempt the perils of that wilderness 
claimed by the Comanches as ancestral soil. 

For all this, a solitary traveller may at times be encountered : 
for on the same ni^ht that Avitnessed the tender and stormy scenes 
in the garden of Casa del Corvo, no less than three such made 
the crossing of the plain that stretches south-westward from the 
banks of the Leor.a River. 

Just at the time th it Calhoun was making his discontented 
departure from the jacaU of the Mexican mustanger, the 
foremost of these nocturnal travellers was clearing the out- 
skirts of the village — going in a direction which, if followed 
far enough, would conduct him to the Nueces River, or one of 
its tributary streams. 

It is scarcely necessary to say, that he was on horseback. In 
Texas there are no pedestrians, beyond the precincts of the town 
or plantation. 

The traveller in question bestrode a strong steed; whose 
tread, at once vigorous and elastic, proclaimed it capable of 



174$ THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

caxTJring its rider through a long journey, without danger of 
breaking down. 

Whether such a journey was intended, could not have been 
told by the bearing of the traveller himself. Ho was equipped, 
as any Texan cavalier might have been, for a ten-mile ride — 
perhaps to his own house. The lateness of the hour forbade the 
supposition, that he could be going from it. The serap6 on his 
shoulders — somewhat carelessly hanging — might have been only 
put on to prot<?ct them against the dews of the night. 

But as there was no dew on that particular night — ^nor any 
outlying settlement in the direction he was heading to— the horse- 
man was more like to have been a real traveller — en route for 
some distant point upon the prairies. 

For all this he did not appear to be in haste ; or uneasy as to 
the hour at which he might reach his destination. 

On the contraiy, he seemed absorbed in some thought, that 
linked itself with tlie past ; sufficiently engrossing to render him 
imobscrvant of outward objects, and negligent in the manage- 
ment of his horse. 

The latter, with the rein lying loosely upon his neck, was left 
to take his own way ; though instead of stopping, or straying, he 
kept steadily on, as if over ground oft trodden before. 

Thus leaving the animal to its own guidance, and pressing it 
neither with whip nor spur, the traveller rode tranquilly over 
the prairio, till lost to view — not by the inten-ention of any 
object, but solely through the dimness of the light, where the 
moon became misty in tlio far distance. • # • * 

Almost on the instant of his disappearance — and as if the 
latter had been taken for a cue — a second horseman spurred out 
from the suburbs of the village ; and proceeded along the same 
path. 

From the fact of his being habited in a fashion to defend him 
against the chill air of the night, he too might have been taken 
for a traveller. 

A cloak clasped across his breast hung over his shoulders, its 
ample skiHs draping backward to the hips of his horse. 

Unlike the horseman who had preceded him, he showed signs 
of haste — plying both whip and spui* as he pressed on. 

He appeared intent on overtaking some one. It might be the 
individual whose form had just faded out of sight ? 

This was all the more probable from the style of his equitation 
— at short intervals bending foi'TV'ard in his saddle, and scanning 
the horizon before him, as if expecting to see some form outlined 
above the line of tlie sky. 

Continuing to advance in this peculiar fashion, he also dis- 
appeared from view — exactly at the same point, where his pre- 
cursor had ceased to be visible — to any one whose gaze might 
have bceji follow in ^r him from the Fort or village. ♦ ♦ * 

An odd contingency — if such it were — that just at that very 



THREE TRAVELLERS ON THE SAME TRACK. 175 

instant a third horseman rode forth from tho outskirts of tho 
littlo Texan town, and, like the other two, continued advancing 
in a direct line across the prairie. 

He, also, was costumed as if for a journey. A " blanket- 
coat " of scarlet colour shrouded most of his person from sight — 
its ample skirts spread over his thighs, half concealing a short 
jager rifle, strapped aslant along the flap of his saddle. 

Like the foremost of the three, ho exhibited no signs of a 
desire to move rapidly along the road. He was proceeding at a 
slow pace— even for a traveller. For all that, his manner be- 
tokened fi state of mind far from tranquil ; and in this respect lie 
might be likened to the hoi'seman who had more immediately 
preceded him. 

But there was an essential difference between the actions of 
the two men. Whereas the cloaked cavalier appeared desirous 
of overtaking some one in advance, he in the red blanket coat 
seemed altogether to occupy himself in reconnoitring towards 
his rear. 

At intervals he would slue himself round in the stirrups — 
sometimes half turn his horse — and scan the track over which 
he had passed ; all the while listening, as though he expected 
to hear some one who should be coming after him. 

Still keeping up this singular surv^eillance, he likewise in duo 
time reached the point of disappearance, without ha\'ing over- 
taken any one, or been himself overtaken. # # # 

Though at nearly equal distances apart while making the 
passage of the prairie, not one of the three horsemen was within 
sight of either of the- others. The second, half-way between 
the other two, was beyond reach of the vision of either, as they 
were beyond his. 

At the same glance no eye could have taken in all three, or 
any two of them ; unless it had been that of the great Texan 
owl perched upon the summit of some high eminence, or tho 
" whip-poor-will '* soaring still higher in pursuit of the moon- 
loving moth. 

An hour later, and at a point of the prairie ten miles farther 
from Fort Inge, the relative positions of the tliree ti'avellers had 
undergone a considerable change. 

The foremost was just entering into a sort of alley or gap in 
the chapparal forest ; which here extended right and left across 
the plain, far as the eye could trace it. The alley might have 
been likened to a strait in the sea : its smooth turfed surface 
contrasting with the darker foliage of the bordering thickets ; 
as water with dry land. It was illumined throughout a part of 
its lenpfth — a half mile or so — the moon showing at its oj^posite 
extremity. Beyond this the dark tree line closed it in, Avhero 
it angled round into sombre shadow. 

Before entenng the alley the foremost of the trio of travellers. 



176 THE HEADLESS HOESEMAN. 

and for the first time, exliibitecl signs of hesitation. He reined 
up ; vr\d for a second or tAvo sate in his saddle regarding the 
grouii I before him. His attention was altogether directed to 
the ipening through the trees in his front. He made no 
atteri;)t at reconnoitring his rear. 

His scrutiny, from whatever cause, was of short continuance. 

Seemingly satisfied, he muttered an injunction to his horse, 
and rode onward into the gap. 

Though he saw not him, he was seen by the cavalier in the 
cloak, following upon the same track, and now scarce half a 
mile behind. 

The latter, on beholding him, gave utterance to a slight 
exclamation. 

It was joyful, nevertheless ; as if lie was gratified by the pros- 
pect of at length overtaking the individual whom he had been 
for ten miles so earnestly pursuing. 

SpuiTiug his horse to a still more rapid pace, he also entered 
the opening ; but only in time to get a glimpse of the other, just 
passing under the shadow of the trees, at the point where tho 
avenue angled. 

Without hesitation, ho rode after ; soon disappearing at the 
same place, and in a similar manner. 

It was a longer interval before the third and hindmost of the 
horsemen approached the pass that led through the chapparal. 

He did approach it, hou'cver; but instead of riding into it, 
as the others had done, he turned oft' at an angle towards the 
edge of the timber ; and, after leaving his horse among the trees, 
crossed a corner of the thicket, and came out into the opening 
on foot. 

Keeping along it — to all appearance still more solicitous about 
something that might be in his rear than anything that was in 
front of liim — he at length an-ived at the shadowy turning; 
where, like the two others, he abruptly disappeared in the dark- 
ness. 

An hour elapsed, during which the nocturnal voices of the 
chapparal — that had been twice temporanly silenced by the hoof- 
stroke of a horse, and once l)y the footsteps of a man — had kept 
up their choral cries by a thousand stereotyjjed repetitions. 

Then there came a further interruption ; more abrupt in its 
commencement, and of longer continuance. It was caused by 
a sound, very different from that made by the passage of either 
horsen.an or pedestrian over the prairie turf. 

It v»'as tho report of a gun, quick, sharp, and clear — tho 
"span;,' " that denotes the discharge of a rifle. 

As ti) the authoritative wave of the conductor's baton the 
orchestra yields instant obedience, so did the prairie minstrels 
simultaneously take their cue from that abrupt detonation, that 
inspii*ed one and all of them with a peculiar awe. 



A MAN MISSING. 177 

The tiger cat miaalling in the midst of the chapparal, the 
coyote howling along its skirts; even the jaguar who need 
not fear any forest foe that might approach him, acknowledged 
his dread of that quick, sharp explosion — to him unexplainable — 
by instantly discontinuing his cries. 

As no other sound succeeded the shot — neither the groan of 
a wounded man, nor the scream of a stricken animal — the 
jaguar soon recovered confidence, and once more essayed to 
frighten the denizens of the thicket with his hoarse growling. 

Friends and enemies — birds, beasts, insects, and reptiles — 
disregardinghis voice in the distance, reassumed the thread of their 
choral strain ; until the chapparal was restored to its normal 
noisy condition, when two individuals standing close together, 
can only hold converse by speaking in the highest pitch of their 



CHAPTER XXXVII. 

A MAN MISSING. 



The breakfast bell of Casa del Corvo had sounded its second and 
last summons — ^preceded by a still earlier signal from a horn, in- 
tended to call in the stragglers from remote parts of the plan- 
tation. 

The " field hands " labouring near had collected around the 
" quarter ; " and in groups, squatted upon the grass, or seated 
upon stray logs, were discussing their diet — by no means spare 
—of " hog and hominy " corn-bread and " corn-coffee," with a 
jocosity tliat proclaimed a keen relish of these, their ordinary 
comestibles. 

The planter's family assembled in the sala wore about to 
begin breakfast, when it was discovered that one of its members 
was missing. 

Henry was the absent one. 

At first there was but little notice taken of the circumstance. 
Only the conjecture : that he would shortly make his appearance. 

As several minutes passed without his coming in, the planter 
quietly observed that it was rather strange of Hemy to be be- 
hind time, and ^vonder w^here he could be. 

The breakfast of the South-western Amcncan is usually a well 
appointed meal. It is eaten at a fixed hour, and tahle-d'h6te 
fashion — all the members of the family meeting at the table. 

This habit is exacted by a sort of necessity, ai-ising out of the 
nature of some of the viands peculiar to the country; many of 
which, as " Virginia biscuit," " buckwheat cakes," and ** waffles," 
are only relished coming fresh from the fire : so that the hour 
when breakfast is being eaten in the dining-room, is that in which 
the cook is broil inj^ her skin in the kitchen. 

I 3 



'8 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

As the laggard, or late riser, may have to pnt np with cold 
/iscnit, and no waffles or buckwheat cakes, there are few such 
>n a Son them plantation. 

Considering this cnstom, it was somewhat strange, that Hemy 
Poindexter had not yet put in an appearance. 

" Where can the boy be ? " asked his father, for the fourth 
time, in that tone of mild conjecture that scarce calls for reply. 

None was made by either of the other two guests at the 
table. Louise only gave expression to a similar conjecture. 
For all that, there was a strangeness in her glance — as in the 
tone of her voice — that might have been observed by one closely 
scrutinizing her features. 

It could scarce be caused by the absence of her brother firom 
the breakfast- table ? The circumstance was too trifling to call 
up an emotion ; and clearly at tliat moment was she subject to 
one. 

What was it ? No one put the inquiiy. Her father did not 
notice anything odd in her look. Much less Calhoun, who was 
himself markedly labouring to conceal some disagreeable thought 
under the guise of an assumed naivete. 

Ever since entering the room he had maintained a studied 
silence ; keeping his eyes averted, instead of, according to his 
usual custom, constantly straying towards his cousin. 

He sate nervously in his chair ; and once or tw^ice might have 
been seen to start, as a servant entered the room. 

Beyond doubt he was under the influence of some extraordi- 
nary agitation. 

" Very strange Henry not being here to his break&ist ! " 
remarked the planter, for about the tenth time. " Surely he 
is not abed till this hour ? No — no — he never lies so late. And 
yet if abroad, he couldn't be at such a distance as not to 
have heard the horn. He may be in his room ? It is just pos- 
sible. Pluto ! '' 

" Ho — ho ! d*ye call me. Mass' Woodley ? I'se hya." 

The sable coachee, acting as table waiter, was in the gala, 
hovering around the chairs. 

" Go to Henry's sleeping-room. If he's there, tell him we're 
at breakfast — half through with, it." 

" He no dar. Mass' Woodley." 

" You have been to his room ? " 

" Ho — ho ! Yas. Dat am I'se no been to de roomitseff*; but 
I'se been to de 'table, to look atter Massa Henry hoss ; an gib 
um him fodder an' com. Ho— ho ! Dat same ole hoss he ain't 
dar ; nor han't a been all ob dis momin'. I war up by de fuss 
skreek ob day. No hoss dar, no saddle, no bridle ; and ob coass 
no Massa Henry. Ho — ho ! He been an* gone out 'fore anb'dy 
wor 'tirrin' 'bout de place." 

" Arc you sure ? " asked the planter, seriously stirred by the 
intelligence. 



A MAN JIISSINQ. 179 

" Satin shoo, Mass' Woodley. Dar's no boss doins in dat ere 
*table, ceppin de sorrel ob Massa Cahoon. Spotty am in de 
•closure outside. Massa Henry lioss ain't nowha." 

" It don't follow that Master Henry himself is not in his room. 
(Jo instantly, and see ! " 

" Ho — ho ! I'se go on do instnm, massr ; but fr all dat dis 
chile no speck find de young genruni dar. Ho ! ho ! wha'ebber 
de ole boss am, darr Massr Henry am too." 

" There's something strange in all this," pursued the planter, 
as Plato shuffled out of the sala. * '•Henry from home ; and at 
night too. Where can he have gone ? I can't think of any one 
he would be visiting at such unseasonable hours ! * He must 
have been out all night, or vcr}' early, according to the nigger's 
account! At the Fort, I suppose, with those young fellows. 
Not at the tavern, I hope ? " 

" Oh, no ! He wouldn't go there," interposed Calhoun, who 
appeared as much mystified by the absence of Henry as was 
Poindexter himself He refrained, however, from suggesting 
any explanation, or saying aught of the scenes to which he had 
been witness on the preceding night. 

" It is to be hoped he knows nothing of it," reflected the 
young Creole. " If not, it may still remain a secret between 
DTother and myself I think I can manage Henry. But why is 
he still absent ? I've sate up all night waiting for him. He 
must have overtaken Maurice, and they have fraternized. I 
hope so ; even though the tavern may have been the scene of their 
reconciliation. Henry is not much given to dissipation; but 
after such a burst of passion, followed by his sudden repentance, 
he may have strayed from his usual habits ? Who could blame 
him if he has ? There can be little harm in it : since he has 
gone astray in good company ? " 

How far the string of reflections might have extended it is not 
easy to say : since it did not reach its natural ending. 

It was intennipted by the reappeaimnce of Pluto ; whose im- 
portant air, as he re-entered the room, proclaimed him the bearer 
of eventful tidings. 

" Well ! " cried his master, without waiting for him to speak, 
"is he there?" 

" No, Mass' Woodley," replied the black, in a voice that 
betrayed a large measure of emotion, *'he are not dar — Massa 
Henry am not. But — but," he hesitatingly continued, " dis 
chile grieb to say dat — dat — him hoss am dar." 

" His horse there ! Not in his sleeping- room, I suppose ? " 

" No, massa ; nor in de 'table neider ; but out da, by de big 
gate." 

"His horse at tho gate? And why, pray, do you grieve 
about that ? " 

"'Ecause, Mass' Woodley, 'ecause do hoss — dat am Massa 
Henry hoss — 'ecause de anymal " 



180 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

" Speak out, you Btammcring nigger ! What because ? I 
suppose the horso has his head upon him P Or is it his tail that 
is missing?" 

" Ah, Mass* Woodley, dis nigga fear dat am missin' wuss dan 
eider him head or him tail. I'ze feer'd dat de ole hoss hab loss 
him rider ! " 

" What ! Henry thrown from his horse ? Nonsense, Pluto ! 
My son is too good a rider for that. Impossible that he should 
have been pitched out of the saddle — impossible ! " 

" Ho ! ho ! I doan say he war trown out ob de saddle. 
Gorramity ! I fear do trouble wuss dan dat. O ! dear ole Massa, 
I tell you 'no mo. Come to dc gate ob de hashashanty, and 
see fo youseff." 

By this time the impression conTcyed by Pluto's speech — much 
more by his manner — notwithstanding its ambiguity, liad become 
suflBciently alarming ; and not only the planter himself, but his 
daughter and nephew, hastily forsaking their seats, and preceded 
by the sable coachman, made their way to the outside gate of 
the hacienda. 

A sight was there awaiting them, calculated to inspire all 
three with the most terrible apprehensions. 

A negp:o man — one of tlie Held slaves of the plantation — 
stood holding a horse, that was saddled and bridled. The 
animal wet with the dews of the night, and having been evidently 
uncared for in any stable, was snorting and stamping the ground, 
as if but lately escaped from some scene of excitement, in which 
he had been compelled to take part. 

He was speckled with a colour darker than that of the dew- 
drops — darker than his own coat of bay-brown. The spots 
scattered oVer his shoulders — the streaks that ran parallel with 
the downward direction of his limbs, the blotches showing 
conspicuously on the saddle-flaps, were all of the colour of 
coagulated blood. Blood had caused them — spots, streaks, and 
blotches ! 

Whence came that horse ? 

From the prairies. The negro had caught him, on the out- 
side plain, as, with the bridle trailing among his feet, he was 
instinctively straying towards the hacienda. 

To whom did he belong ? 

The question was not asked. All present knew him to be the 
horse of Henry Poindextcr. 

Nor did any one ask whose blood bedaul)ed the saddle-flaps. 
The three individuals most interested could think only of that one, 
who stood to them in the triple relationship of son, brother, 
and cousin. 

The dark red spots on which they were distractedly gazing 
had spurtod from the veins of Henry Poindexter. They had 
no other thought. 



181 



CHAPTER XXXVIII. 

THE AVENGERS. 



Hastily — perliaps too truly — construing the sinister evidence, 
the half- frantic father leaped into the bloody saddle, and gal- 
loped direct for the Fort. 

Calhoun, upon his own horse, followed close after. 

The hue and cry soon spread abroad. Rapid riders carried it 
up and do^Ti the river, to the remotest plantations of the settle- 
ment. 

The Indians were out, and near at hand, reaping their harvest 
of scalps! That of young Poindexter was the firstfruits of 
their sanguinary gleaning! 

Henry Poindexter — the noble generous youth who had not an 
enemy in all Texas ! Who but Indians could have spilled such 
innocent blood ? Only the Comanches could have been so 
cruel ? 

Among the horsemen, who came quickly together on the 
parade ground of Fort Inge, no one doubted that the Coman- 
ches had done the deed. It was simply a question of how, 
when, and where. 

The blood drops pretty clearly, proclaimed the first. He who 
had shed them must have been shot, or speared, while sitting in 
his saddle. They were mostly on the ofl* side ; where they pre- 
sented an appearance, as if something had been slaked over 
them. This was seen both on the shoulders of the horse, and the 
flap of the saddle. Of course it was the body of the rider as it 
slipped lifeless to the earth. 

There were some who spoke with equal certainty as to 
the time — old frontiersmen experienced in such matters. 

According to them the blood was scarce " ten hours old : " in 
other words, must have been shed about ten hours before. 

It was now noon. The murder must have been committed at 
two o'clock in the morning. 

The third query was, perhaps, the most important — at least 
now that the deed was done. 

Whei'c had it been done? Where was the body to be 
found ? 

After that, where should the assassins be sought for ? 

These were the questions discussed by the mixed council of 
settlers and soldiers, hastily assembled at Fort Inge, and pre- 
sided over by the commandant of the Fort — the afHictod father 
standing speecliless by his side. 

The last was of special importance. There are thirty-two 
points in the compass of the pralines, as well as in that which 
guides the ocean wanderer ; and, therefore, in any expedition 



182 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

going in search of a war-party of Comanches, there would be 
thirty-two cliances to one against its taking the right track. 

It mattered not that the home of these nomadic savages was 
in the west. That was a wide word ; and signified anywhere 
within a semicircle of some hundreds of miles. 

Besides, the Indians were now upon the war-trail; and, in 
an isolated settlement such as that of the Leona, as likely to 
make their appearance from the east. More likely, indeed, 
since such is a common strategic trick of these astute warriors. 

To have ridden forth at random would have been sheer folly ; 
with such odds against going the right way, as thirty- two to one. 

A proposal to separate the command into several parties, and 
proceed in diflerent directions, met with little favour from any 
one. It was directly negatived by the major himself. 

The murderers might be a thousand, the avengers were but 
the tenth of that number: consisting of some fifty dragoons 
who chanced to be in garrison, with about as many mounted 
civilians. The party must be kept together, or run the risk of 
being attacked, and perhaps cut ofi*, in detail ! 

The argument was deemed conclusive. Even the bereaved 
father — and cousin, who appeared equally the victim of a voice- 
less grief — consented to shape their coiu'se according to the 
counsels of the more prudent majority, backed by the authority 
of the major himself. 

It was decided that the searchers should proceed in a body. 

In what direction ? This still remained the subject of dis- 
discussion. 

The thoughtful captain of infantry now became a con- 
spicuous figure, by suggesting that some inquiry should be 
made, as to what direction had been last taken by the man who 
was supposed to be murdered. Who last saw Henry Poindexter ? 

His lather and cousin were first appealed to. 

The fonner had last seen his son at the supper table ; and 
supposed him to have gone thence to his bed. 

The answer of Calhoun was less direct, and, perhaps, less 
satisfactory. He had conversed with his cousin at a later horn*, 
and had bidden him good night, under the impression that ho 
was retiring to his room. 

Why was Calhoun concealing what had really occurred? 
Why did he refi^ain from giving a narration of that garden scene 
to which he had been witness ? 

Was it, that he feared humiliation by disclosing the part he 
had himself played ? 

Whatever was the reason, the tmtli was shunned ; and an 
answer given, the sincerity of which was suspected by more than 
one who listened to it. 

The evasiveness might have been more apparent, had there 
been any reason for suspicion, or had the bystanders been allowed 
longer time to reflect upon it. 



THE AVEXGEES. 183 

"VVliile the inquiiy was going on, light came in from a quarter 
hitherto nnthought of. The landlord of the Rough and Headj, 
who had come uncalled to the council, after forcing his way 
through the crowd, proclaimed himself willing to communicate 
some facts worth their hearing — in short, the very facts they 
were endeavouring to find out: when Henry Poindexter had 
been last seen, and what the direction he had taken. 

Oberdofier's testimony, delivered in a semi- Teutonic tongne, 
was to the effect : that Maurice the mustanger — who had been 
staying at his hotel ever since his fight with Captain Calhoun — 
had that night ridden out at a late hour, as he had done for 
several nights before. 

He had returned to the hotel at a still later hour ; and finding 
it open— on account of a party of bons vivants who had supped 
there — had done that which ho had not done for a long time 
before — demanded his bill, and to Old Duffer's astonishment 
— as the latter naively confessed — settled every cent of it ! 

Where he had procured the money " Gott " only knew, or why 
he left the hotel in such a hurry. Oberdoffer himself only knew 
that he had left it, and taken all his * trapsh * along with him— 
just as he was in the habit of doing, whenever he went off upon 
one of his horse-catching expeditions. 

On one of these the village Boniface supposed him to have 
gone. 

What had all this to do with the question before the council? 
Much indeed ; though it did not appear till the last moment of 
his examination, when the witness revealed the more pertinent 
facts : — that about twenty minutes after the mustanger had taken 
his departure from the hotel, " Heinrich Poindexter " knocked 
at the door, and inquired after Mr. Maurice Gerald ; — that on 
being told the latter was gone, as also the time, and probable 
direction he had taken, the "young gentlemans" rode off at a 
quick pace, as if with the intention of overtaking him. 

This was all Mr. Oberdoffer knew of the matter ; and all he 
could be expected to tell. 

The intelligence, though containing several points but ill 
understood, was nevertheless a guide to the expeditionary party. 
It furnished a sort of clue to the direction they ought to take. 
If the missing man had gone off with Maurice the mustanger, or 
after him, he should be looked for on the road the latter himself 
would be likely to have taken. 

Did any one know where the horse-hunter had his home ? 

No one could state the exact locality ; though there were 
sovenil who believed it was somewhere among the head- waters 
of the Nueces, on a creek called the "Alamo." 

To the Alamo, then, did they determine upon proceeding in 
quest of the missing man, or his dead body — perhaps, also, to 
find that of Maurice the mustanger; and, at the same time, 
avenge upon the savage assassins two murders instead of one. 



184 



CHAPTER XXXIX. 

TUE POOL OF BLOOD. 



Nolrvvithstanding its number — lai'ger than usual for a party of 
borderers merely in search of a strayed neighbour — the expe- 
dition pursued its way with considerable caution. 

There was reason. The Indians were upon the war- trail. 

Scouts were sent out in advance ; and professed " trackers " 
employed to pick up, and interpret the " sign." 

On the prairie, extending nearly ten miles to the westward of 
the Leona, no trail was discovered. The turf, hard and dry, only- 
showed the ti'acks of a horse when going in a gallop. None sucn 
were seen along the route. 

At ten miles' distance from the Fort the plain is traversed by 
a tract of chapparal, running north-west and south-east. It is 
a true Texan jungle, laced by llianas, and almost impenetrable 
for man and horse. 

Through this jungle, directly opposite the Fort, there is an 
opening, through wliich passes a path — the shortest that leads 
to the head waters of the Nueces. It is a sort of natural avenuo 
among the trees that stand closely crowded on each side, but 
refrain from meeting. It may be artificial : some old " war- 
trail " of the Comanches, erst trodden by their expeditionary 
parties on the maraud to Tamaulipas, Coahuila, or New Leon. 

The trackers knew tliat it conducted to the Alamo ; and, there- 
fore, guided the expedition into it. 

Shortly after entenng among the trees, one of the latter, 
who had gone afoot in the advance, was seen standing by the 
edge of the thicket, as if waiting to announce some recently 
discovered fact. 

" Wliat is it ? " demanded the major, spurring ahead of the 
others, and riding up to the tracker. " Sign ? " 

" Aye, that there is, major ; and plenty of it. Look there ! 
In that bit of softish ground you see " 

" The tracks of a horse.*' 

" Of two horses, major," said the man, correcting the officer 
with an air of deference. 

" True. Tliere are two." 

" Farther on they become four ; though they're all made by 
the same two hoi'ses. They liavc gone up this openin' a bit, and 
come back again." 

" Well, Spangler, my good fellow ; what do you make of it ?" 

"Not much," replied Spangler, who was one of the paid 
scouts of the cantonment ; " not much of that ; I hav'n't been 
far enough up the openin' to make out what it means — only far 
enough to know that a man has been murdered,** 



THE POOL OF BLOOD. 185 

" What proof Lave 3'oii of what 3'ou say ? Is there a dead 
body?" ^ , . 

" No. Xot as luach as tiie little finger ; not even a hair of tho 
head, so fur as I can see." 

"What then r'^ 

" Blood, a regular pool of it — enough to have cleared out the 
carcass of a bull buffalo. Come and see for vimrself. But^" 
continued the scout in a muttered undertone, "if you wish 
mo to follow up the sign as it ought to be done, you'll oitler 
the others to stav l^ack — 'specially them as arc how nearest 
you." 

Tliis observation appeared to be more particularly pointed 
at the planter and his nephew ; as the tracker, on making it, 
glanced furtively towards both. 

"By all means," i-eplied the major. "Yes, Spangler, you 
shall have every facility for your work. Gentlemen ! may I re- 
quest you to remain where you are for a few minutes. My 
tracker, here, has to go through a performance that requii-es 
him to have the ground to himself. He can only take me along 
with him." 

Of course the major's request was a command, courteously 
conveyed, to men who were not exactly his subordinates. It 
was obeyed, however, just as if they had been ; and one and all 
kept their places, while the officer, following his scout, rode 
away from the ground. 

About fifty yards further on, Spangler came to a stand. 

"You see that, major ? " said he, pointing to the ground. 

" I should be blind if I didn't " replied the officer. " A pool of 
blood — as you say, big enough to have emptied tho veins of a 
buffido. If it has come from those of a man, I should say that 
whoever shed it is no longer in the land of the liWng." 

" Dead ! " pronounced tho ti-Acker. " Dead before that blood 
had turned purple — as it is now." 

" Whose do you think it is, Spangler ? " 

" That of tho man we're in search of— the son of the old gen- 
tleman down there. That's why I didn't wish liim to come 
forward." 

" He may as well know the worst. He must find it out in 
time." 

"True what you say, major; but we had better first find out 
how the young fellow has come to be thrown in his tmcks. That's 
what is puzzling me." 

" How ! bv the Indians, of course ? The Comanches have 
done it ? " 

"Not a bit of it," rejoined the scout, with an air of confidenco. 

" Hu ! why do you say that, Spangler ? " 

" Because, you sc»e, if the Indyins had a been here, there would 
be forty horse- tracks instead of four, and them made by only 
two horses." 



18G THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

"There's trutli in tliat. It isn't likely a single Comanclie 
"wonld have had the daring, even to assasinate " 

"No Comanche, major, no Indyin of any kind committed 
this murder. There are two horse-tracks along the opening. 
As you see, both are shod ; and they're the same that have conio 
back again. Comanches don't ride shod horses, except when 
they've stolen them. Both these were ridden by white men. 
One set of the tracks has l^ecn made by a mustang, though it 
it vrvLS a big 'im. The other is tlie hoof of an American horse. 
Groin' west the nmstimg was foremost ; you can tell that by the 
overlap. Coniin' back the States horse was in the lead, 
the other followin' him ; though it's hard to say how fur 
behind. I may be able to tell better, if wo keep on to the 
place whar both must have turned back. It can't be a great 
ways off." 

" Let us proceed thither, then," said the major. " I shall com- 
mand the people to stay where they are." 

Having isssued the command, in a voice loud enough to bo 
heard by his following, the major rode away from the blood- 
stained spot, preceded by the tracker. 

For about four hundred yards further on, the two sets of 
tracks were traceable ; but by the eye of the major, only where 
the turf was softer under the shadow of the trees. So far — the 
scout said the horses had passed and returned in the order already 
declared by him : — that is, the mustang in the lead while pro- 
ceeding westward, and in the rear while going in the opposite 
direction. 

At this point the tmil ended — both horses, as was already 
knoAvn, having returned on their own tracks. 

Before taking tlio back track, however, they had halted, and 
stayed some time in the same place — under the branches of a 
spreading cotton wood. The tui'f, much trampled around the 
trunk of the tree, was evidence of tin's. 

The tracker got off liis horse to examine it; and, stooping to 
the earth, carefully scrutinized the sign. 

" They've been here thogither," said he, aft^r several minutes 
spent in his analysis, " and for some time ; though neithcr's been 
out of the saddle. They've been on fiiendly terms, too ; which 
makes it all the more unexplainable. They must have quar- 
relled afterward s . " 

" If you are speaking the tnith, Spangler, you must be a witch. 
How on earth can you know all that ? " 

" By the sign, major ; by the sign IVs simple enough. I see 
the shoes of both horses lapping over each other a score of 
times ; and in such a way that sliows they must have l^een thc- 
gither — the animals, it might be, restless and movin' about. As 
for the time, they've taken longcuough to smoke a cigar apiece — 
close to the teeth too. Here are the stumps ; not enough left 
to fill a fellow's pipe." 



TUE TOOL OP BLOOD. 187 

The tracker, stooping as he spoke, picked up a brace of cigar 
stnmps, and handed them to the major. 

"By the same token,** he continued, " I conclude that the two 
horsemen, whoever they were, while under this tree could not 
have had any very hostile feelins, the one to the tother. Men 
don't smoke in company ^vith the design of cutting each other's- 
throats, or blowing out one another's brains, the instant after- 
wards. The trouble between them must have come on after the 
cigars were smoked out. That it did come there can be no doubt. 
As sure, major, as you're sittin' in your saddle, one of them has 
wiped out the other. I can only guess which has been wiped 
out, by the errand we're on. Poor Mr. Poindextur will niver 
more see his son alive." 

" 'Tis very mysterious," remarked the major. 

"It is, by jingo!" 

" And the body, too ; where can it be ? " 

" That's what purplexes me most of all. Ift had been Indyins, 
I wouldn't a thought much o' its being missin'. They might a 
carried the man off wi them to make a target of him, if only 
wounded ; and if dead, to eat him, maybe. But there's been no 
Indyins here — not a redskin. Take my word for it, major, one 
o' the two men who Hd these horses has wiped out the other ; and 
sartinly ho have wiped him out in the litterlest sense o' the 
word. \Vliat he's done wi' the body beats me ; and perhaps 
only hisself can tell." 

" Most strange ! " exclaimed the major, pronouncing the words 
vdi\\ emphasis — " most mysterious ! " 

"It's possible we may yet unravel some o' the mystery," pur- 
sued Spanglcr. " We must follow up the tracks of the horses, after 
they started from this — that is, from where the deed was done. 
We may make something out of that. There's nothing more to 
be learnt here. Wo may as well go back, major. Am I to 
tell him ? " 

" Mr. Poindexter, you mean ? " 

" Yes. You are convinced that his son is the man who has 
been murdered ? " 

" Oh, no ; not so much as tliat comes to. Only convinced that 
the horse the old gentleman is now riding is one of the two 
that's been over this ground last night — the States horse I feel 
sure. I have compared the tracks ; and if young Poindexter 
was the man who was on his lack, I fear there's not much 
chance for tlio poor fellow. It looks ugly that the other rid 
after him." 

" Spangler ! have you any suspicion as to who the other may 
be?" 

" Not a spark, major. Ift hadn't been for the tale of Old 
Duffer I'd never have thought of Maurice the mustanger. True, 
it's tlic track o' a shod mustang ; but I don't know it to be 
hisn. Surely it can't be ? The young Irishman aint the man 



188 TUE UEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

to stand nonsense from nobody ; but as little air he the one to do 
a deed like tliis — that is, if it's been cold-blooded killin." 

" I think as you about that." 

" And you may think so, major. If young Poindexter's been 
killed, and by Maurice Gerald, there's been a fair stand-up fight 
atwcen them, and the planter's son has gone under. That's how 
I shed reckon it uj). As to the disappearance o* the dead body 
— for them two quarts o' blood could only have come out o' a body 
that's now dead — that irees me. We must follow the trail, 
howsoever ; and maybe it'll fetch us to some sensible concloosion. 
Am I to tell the old gentleman what I think o't ? " 

"Perhaps better not. He knows enough already. It will 
at least fall lighter upon him if he find things out by piecemeal. 
Say nothing of what we've seen. If you can take up the trail of 
the two horses after going ofi* fi*om the place where the blood is, 
I shall manage to bnng the command after you without any one 
suspecting what we've seen." 

" All right, major," said the scout, " I think I can guess 
where the oif trail goes. Give me ten minutes upon it, and 
then come on to my signal." 

So saying the tmcker rode back to the " place of blood ; " and 
after what appeared a very cursory examination, turned off into 
a lateral opening in the chapparal. 

Within the promised time his shrill whistle announced that 
he was nearly a mile distant, and in a direction altogether 
different from the spot that had been profaned by some san- 
guinary scene. 

On hearing the signal, the commander of the expedition — 
who had in the meantime returned to his party — gave orders 
to advance ; while ho himself, with Poindexter and the other 
principal men, moved ahead, without his revealing to any one of 
his retinue the chapter of strange disclosures for which he was 
indebted to the " instincts " of his tracker. 



CHAPTER XL. 

THE MAIIKED BULLET. 



Before coming up with the scout, an incident occurred to 
vary the monotony of the march. Instead of keeping along the 
avenue, the major had conducted his command in a diagonal 
direction through the chappaml. He had done this to avoid 
giving unnecessary pain to the afflicted father ; who would other- 
wise have looked upon the life-blood of his son, or at least what 
the major believed to bo so. The gory spot was shunned, and 
as the discovery was not yet known to any other save the major 



THE MARKED BULLET. 189 

himself, and the tracker who had made it, the party moved on 
in ignorance of the existence of such a dread sign. 

The path they were now pursuing was a mere cat tie- track, 
scarce broad enough for two to ride abreast. Here and there 
were glades where it widened out for a few yards, again running 
into the thorny chapparal. 

On entering one of these glades, an animal sprang out of the 
bushes, and bounded off over the sward. A beautiful creature it 
was, with its fulvous coat occUated with rows of shining rosettes ; 
its strong lithe limbs supporting a smooth cylindrical body, con- 
tinued into a long tapering tail ; the very type of agility ; a 
creature rare even in these remote solitudes — ihe jaguar. 

Its very rarity rendered it the more desirable as an object to 
test the skill of the marksman ; and, notwithstanding the serious 
nature of the expedition, two of the party were tempted to dis- 
charge their rifles at the retreating animal. 

They were Cassius Calhoun, and a young planter who was 
riding by his side. 

The jaguar dropped dead in its tracks : a bullet having entered 
its body, and traversed the spine in a longitudinal direction. 

Which of the two was entitled to the credit of the successful 
shot ? Calhoun claimed it, and so did the young planter. 

The shots had been fired simultaneously, and only one of them 
had hit. 

" I shall show you," confidently asserted the ex-officer, dis- 
mounting beside the dead jaguar, and unsheathing his knife. 
" You see, gentlemen, the ball is still in the animal's body ? If 
it's mine, you'll find my initials on it — C. C. — with a crescent. I 
mould my bullets so that I can always tell when I've killed my 
game." 

The swaggering air with which ho held up the leaden missile 
after extracting it told that he had spoken the truth. A few of 
the more curious drew near and examined the bullet. Sure 
enough it was moulded as Calhoun had declared, and the disputo 
ended in the discomfiture of the young planter. 

The party soon after came up with the tracker, waiting to 
conduct them along a fresh trail. 

It was no longer a track made by two horses, with shod hooves. 
The turf showed only the hoof-marks of one ; and so indistinctly, 
that at times they were undiscemiblo to all eyes save those of the 
tracker himself 

The trace carried them through the thicket, from glade to glado 
— after a circuitous march — bringing them back into the lane- 
like opening, at a point still further to the west. 

Spangler — though far from being the most accomplished of his 
calling — took it up as fast as the people could ride after him. In his 
own mind ho had determined the character of the animal whoso 
footmarks he was following. He knew it to be a mustang — the 
same that had stood under the cottonwood whilst its rider was 



100 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

smoking a cigar — the same whose hoof-mark he had seen deeply 
indented in a sod saturated with human blood. 

The track of the States horse he had also followed for a short 
distance — in the interval, when he was left alone. He saw that it 
would conduct him back to the prairie tlirough wliich they had 
passed ; and thence, in all likelihood, to the settlements on the 
Leona. 

He had forsaken it to trace the footsteps of the shod 
mustang ; more likely to lead him to an explanation of that red 
mystery of murder — perhaps to the den of the assassin. 

Hitherto perplexed by the hoof-prints of two horses alter- 
nately overlapping each other, he was not less puzzled now, 
while scmtinizing the tracks of but one. 

They went not direct, as those of an animal urged onwards upon 
a journey ; but here and there zigzagging ; occasionally turning 
upon themselves in short curves ; then forward for a stretch ; and 
then circling again, as if the mustang was either not mounted, 
or its rider was asleep in the saddle ! 

Could these be the hoofprints of a horse with a man upon 
his back — an assassin skulking away from the scene of assassina- 
tion, his conscience freshly excited by the crime ? 

Spangler did not think so. He knew not wliat to think. Ho 
was mystified more than ever. So confessed he to the major, 
when being questioned as to the character of the trail. 

A spectacle that soon afterwards came under his eyes— simul- 
taneously seen by every indi^^dual of the party — so far from 
solving the mystery, had the effect of rendering it yet more 
inexplicable. 

More than tliis. Wliat had hitherto been but an ambiguous 
affair — a subject for guess and speculation — was suddenly trans- 
formed into a hoiTor ; of that intense kind that can only spring 
from thoughts of the supernatural. 

No one could say that this feeling of horror had arisen without 
reason. 

When a man is seen mounted on a horse's back, seated 
firmly in the saddle, with limbs astride in the stirrups, body 
erect, and hand holding the rein — in short, everything in air and 
attitude required of a rider ; when, on closer scrutiny, it is 
observed : that there is something wanting to complete the idea 
of a perfect equestrian ; and, on still closer scrutiny, that this 
something is the head, it would be strange if the spectacle did 
not startle the beholder, terrifying him to the very core of 
his heart. 

And this very sight came before their eyes ; causing them 
simultaneously to rein up, and with as much suddenness, as if 
each had rashly ridden within less than his horse*s length of the 
brink of an abyss ! 

The sun was low down, almost on a level with the sward. 
Facing westward, his disc was directly before them. His rays, 



THE MARKED BULLET. 191 

glaring redly in their eyes, hindered them from having a very 
accurate view, towards the quarter of the west. Still could they 
see that strange shape above described — a horseman without a 
head! 

Had only one of the painty declared himself to have seen it, 
he would have been laughed at by his companions as a lunatic. 
Even two might have been stigmatized in a similar manner. 

But what everybody saw at the same time, could not be ques- 
tioned ; and only he would have been thought crazed, who should 
have expressed incredulity about the presence of the abnormal 
phenomenon. 

No one did. The eyes of all were turned in the same direc- 
tion, their gaze intently fixed on what was either a horseman 
without the head, or the best counterfeit that could have been 
contrived. 

Was it this ? If not, what was it ? 

These interrogatories passed simultaneously through the minds 
of all. As no one could answer them, even to himself, no answer 
was vouchsafed. Soldiers and civilians sate silent in their 
saddles — each expecting an explanation, which the other was 
unable to supply. 

There could be heard only muttenngs, expressive of surprise 
and terror. No one even offered a conjecture. 

The headless horseman, whether phantom or real, when first 
seen, was about entering the avenue — near the debouchure of 
which the searchers had anived. Had he continued his com*se, 
he must have met them in the teeth — supposing their courage to 
have been equal to the encounter. 

As it was, he had halted at the same instant as themselves ; and 
stood regarding them with a mistrust that may have been mutual. 

There was an interval of silence on both sides, during which 
a cigar stump might have been heard falling upon the sward. 
It was then the strange appantion was most closely scrutinized 
by those who had the courage : for the majority of the men sate 
shivering in their stirrups — through sheer terror, incapable even 
of thought ! 

The few who dared face the mystery, with any thought of 
accounting for it, were bafiled in their investigation by the glare 
of the setting sun. They could only see that there was a horse 
of large size and noble shape, with a man upon his back. The 
figure of the man was less easily determined, on account of the 
limbs being inserted into oveitilLs, while his shoulders were 
enveloped in an ample cloak-like covering. 

What signified his shape, so long as it wanted that portion 
most essential to existence ? ' A man without a head — on 
horseback, sitting erect in the saddle, in an attitude of ease and 
f^ace — with spurs sparkling upon his heels — the l)ndle-rein held 
in one hand — the other where it should be, resting lightly upon 
his thigh ! 



192 TUE UEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

Great God ! what could it mean ? 

Was it a phantom ? Surely it could not be human ? " 

They who viewed it were not the men to have faith cither in 
phantoms, or phantasmagoria. Many of them had met Nature 
m her remotest solitudes, and wrestled with her in her rougliest 
moods. They were not given to a belief in ghosts. 

But the confidence of the most incredulous was shaken by a 
sight so sti'ange — so absolutely unnatural — and to such an extent, 
that the stoutest hearted of the party w*as forced mentally to 
repeat the words : — 

** Is it a i^hantom ? Surely it cannot he human t " 

Its size favoured the idea of the supernatural. It appeared 
double that of an ordinary man upon an ordinary horse. It 
was more like a giant on a pgantic steed ; though this might 
have been owing to the illusoiy light under which it was seen — 
the refraction of the sun's rays passing horizontally through tho 
tremulous atmosphere of the parched plain. 

There was but little time to philosophize — not enough to 
complete a carelul scrutiny of t])e unearthly apparition, whicli 
every one present, with liand spread over his eyes to shade 
them from the dazzling glare, was endeavouring to make. 

Nothing of colour could be noted — neither the garments of 
the man, nor the hairj' coat of tho horse. Only the shape could 
be traced, outlined in sable silhouette against the golden back- 
ground of the sky ; and this in every change of attitude, whether 
fronting the spectators, or turned st<jm towards them, was still 
the same — still that inexplical.>le phenomenon : a horseman tcith- 
out a head ! 

Was it a ])hantom ? Surely it could not be human ? 

" 'Tis old Nick upon horseback ! " cried a fearless frontiers- 
man, who would scarce have quailed to encounter his Satanic 
majesty even in that guise. " By the 'tanial Almighty, it's tho 
devil himself! '' 

The boisterous laugh which succeeded the profane utterance 
of the reckless speaker, while it only abided to the awe of his 
less courageous comnides, a])peared to produce an eflect on the 
heaiUcss horseman. Wheeling suddenly round — his hoi'se at the 
same time sending fortli a scream that caused either the earth 
or the atmosphere to tremble — he commenced galloping away. 

He went direct towards the sun ; and continued this course, 
until only by his motion could he bo distinguished from one of 
those spots that have puzzled tlic philosopher — at length alto- 
gether disappearing, as though ho Lad ridden into the dazzling 
disc ! 



193 



CHAPTER XLT. 

CUATRO CAVALLEUOS. 



The party of searchers, tinder the coininand of the major, was 
not the only one that went forth from Fort Inge on that eventful 
morning. 

Nor was it the earliest to take saddle. Long before — in fact 
close following the dawn of day — a much smaller party, con- 
sisting of only four horsemen, was seen setting out from the 
suburbs of the village, and heading their horses in the direction 
of the Nueces. 

These could not be going in search of the dead body of Henry 
Poindexter. At that hour no one suspected that the young 
man was dead, or even that he was missing. The riderless 
horse had not yet come in to tell the tale of woe. The settle- 
ment was still slumbering, unconscious that innocent blood had 
been spilt. 

Though setting out from nearly the same point, and proceed- 
ing in a like direction, there was not the slightest similarity 
between the two parties of mounted men. Those earliest astart 
were all of pure Iberian blood ; or this conmiingled with 
Aztecan. In other words they were Mexicans. 

It required neither skill nor close scrutiny to discover this. 
A glance at themselves and their horses, their style of equi- 
tation, the slight muscular development of their thighs and 
hips — more strikingly observable in their deep-tree saddles— 
the gaily coloured scrapes shrouding their shoulders, the wide 
velveteen calzoncros on their legs, the big spurs on their boots, 
and broad-brimmed sombreros on their heads, declared them 
cither Mexicans, or men who had adopted the Mexican costume. 

That they were the former there was not a question. The 
sallow hue; the pointed Vandyke beard, covering the chin, 
sparsely — though not from any thinning by the shears — the 
black, close-cropped chevelure ; the regular facial outline, were 
all indisputable characteristics of the Hispano-Moro- Aztecan 
race, who now occupy the ancient territory of the Moctezumas. 

One of the four was a man of larger frame than any of 
his companions. Ho rode a l)ettcr horse ; was more richly 
apparelled ; candied upon his person arms and equipments of a 
superior finish ; and was othersvisc distinguished, so as to leave 
no doubt about his being the leader of tlie cuarfilla. 

He was a man of between thirty and forty years of age; 
nearer to the latter than the former ; thougli a smooth, rounded 
cheek — furnished with a short and carefully trimmed whisker 
— gave him the appearance of being younger than he was. 

But for a cold animal eye, and a heaviness of feature that 

K 



194 THE HEADLESS HOKSEMAN. 

betrayed a tendency to behave with brutality — if not with 
positive cnielty — the individual in question might have been 
described as handsome. 

A well formed mouth, mth twin rows of white teeth between 
the lips, even when these were exhibited in a smile, did not re- 
move this unpleasant impression. It but reminded the beholder 
of the sardonic grin that may have been given by Satan, when, 
after the temptation had succeeded, ho gazed contemptuously 
back upon the mother of mankind. 

It was not his looks that had led to his having become known 
among his comi*ades by a peculiar nick-name ; that of an 
animal well known upon the plains of Texas. 

His deeds and disposition had earned for him the unenviable 
soubriquet " El Coyote." 

How came he to be crossing the prairie at tliis early liour of 
the morning — apparently sober, and acting as the leader of 
others — w*hen on the same morning, but a few hours before, 
he was seen drunk in his jaeale — so drunk as to be uncon- 
scious of having a visitor, or, at all events, incapable of giving 
that visitor a civil reception ? 

The change of situation though sudden — and to some extent 

strange — is not so diflB^cult of explanation. It will be understood 

after an account has been given of his movements, from the 

' time of Calhoun's leaving him, till the moment of meeting him 

in the saddle, in company with his tlirec conpaUanos. 

On riding away from his hut, Calhoun had left the door, as 
he had found it, ajar ; and in this way did it remain until the 
morning — El Coyot<? all the time continuing his sonorous 
slumber. 

At daybreak he was aroused by the raw air that came drift- 
ing over him in the shape of a chilly fog. This to some extent 
sobered him ; and, springing up from his skin- covered truck, he 
commenced staggering over the floor — all the while uttering 
anathemas against the cold, and the door for letting it in. 

It might be expected that he would have shut to the latter 
on the instant ; but he did not. It was the only aperture, ex- 
cepting some holes arising fi*om dilapidation, by which light 
was admitted into the intcri(n* of the jaeale ; and light he wanted, 
to enable him to carry ont the design that had summoned him 
to his feet. 

The grey dawn, just commencing to creep in through the open 
doorway, scarce sutliced for his purpose ; and it was only after 
a good while spent in gropiug about, intei'spersed with a seiies 
of stumblings, and accompanied by a string of j)rofane exclama- 
tions, that he succeeded in finding that he was . searching for: 
a largo two-headed gourd, with a straj) around ita middle, used 
as a canteen for carrying water, or more Irequently mezcah 

The odour escajiing from its uncorked end told that it had 
recently contained this i)otcnt spirit ; but, that it was now 



CUATBO CAVALLEROS. 195 

empty, was announced by another profane ejaculation that 
came from the lips of its owner, as he made the discovery. 

" Sangre de Crisfo / " he cried, in an accent of angry disap- 
pointment, giving the gourd a shake to assure himself of its 
emptiness. " Not a drop — not enough to drown a chiga ! And 
my tongue sticking to my teetli. My throat feels as if I had 
bolted a hrazero of red-hot charcoal. Por Dies ! I can't stand 
it. What's to be done ? Daylight ? It is. I must up to the 
puehlita. It's possible that Senor Doffer may have his trap open 
by this time to cateh the early birds. If so, he'll find a customer 
in the Coyote. Ha, ha, ha ! " 

Slinging the gourd strap around his neck, and thrusting 
his head through the slit of his serape, he set forth for the 
village. 

The tavern was but a few hundred yards from liis hut, on 
the same side of the river, and approachable by a path, that he 
could have travelled with his eyes under " tapojos." In twenty 
minutes after, he was staggering past the sign-post of the 
" Rough and Ilcady." 

He chanced to be in luck. Oberdoffer was in his bar-room, 
serving some early customers — a party of soldiers who had 
stolen out of quarters to swallow their morning dram. 

" Mein Gott, Mishter Dees ! " said the landlord, saluting the 
newly arrived guest, and without ceremony forsaking six credit 
customers, for one that he knew to be cash. " Mein Gott ! is it 
you I sees so. early aslitir ? I knowsh vat you vant. You vant ' 
your pig coord fill mit ze Mexican spirits — ag — ag — vat you 
call it?" 

^^Aguardiente ! You've guessed it, cavallero. That's just what 
I want." 

" A tollar — von toUar ish the piice." 

" Carramho I I've paid it often enough to know that. Here's 
the coin, and there's the canteen. ¥\\\, and be quick about it ! " 

" Ha ! you ish in a hurry, niciu herr. Fel — I von't keeps you 
waitin ; I sui>pose you ish oil* for the wild horsh prairish. If 
there's anything goot among the droves, I'm afeart that the 
Irishmans will pick it up Ix^forc you. He went off lasht 
night. He left my housli at a late hour — after midnight 
it wash — a very late hour, to go a shoumey I But he's a 
queer cushtomer is that mushtangei*, blister Maurisli Sherralt. 
Nobody knows liis ways. I shouldn't say any things againsht 
him. He hash lx?en a goot cuslitonier to me. He has paid his 
bill like a ricli man, and lie hash plenty peside. Mein Gott ! 
his pockets wash eraram mit toUars ! " 

On hearing that the Irishman had gone off to the " horsh 
prairish," as OlK-rdoffer termed them, the Mexican by his de- 
meanour betrfiyed more than an ordinary intcrcst in the an- 
nouncement. 

It was proclaimed, first by a slight start of surprise, and then 

K 2 



196 THE HEADLESS HOBSEHAN. 

by an impatience of manner that continued to mark his movo- 
ments, while listening to the long rigmarole that followed. 

It was clear that he did not desire anything of this to be 
observed. Instead of questioning his informant upon ihe sub- 
ject thus started, or voluntarily displaying any interest in it, he 
rejoined in a careless drawl, — 

" It don't concern me, cavallero. There are plenty of 
mtisfenos on tbo plains — enough to give employment to. all the 
horse-catchers in Texas. Look alive, senor, and let's have 
the aguardiente ! '* 

A little chagi'ined at being thus rudely checked in his attempt 
at a gossip, the Grcrman Boniface hastily filled the gourd canteen ; 
and, without essaying further speech, handed it across the 
counter, took the dollar in exchange, chucked the coin into his 
till, and then moved back to his military customers, more 
amiable because drinking upan the score, 

Diaz, notwithstanding the eagerness he had lately exhibited 
to obtain the liquor, walked out of the bar-room, and away from 
the hotel, without taking the stopper from his canteen, or even 
appearing to think of it ! 

His excited air was no longer that of a man merely longing 
for a glass of ardent spirits. There w^as something stronger 
stirring within, that for the time rendered him oblivious of the 
appetite. 

Whatever it may have been it did not drive him direct to his 
home : for not until he had paid a visit to three other hovels 
somewhat similar to his own — all situated in the suburbs of the 
pueblifa, and inhabited by men like himself— not till then, did he 
retmTi to his jacale. 

It was on getting back, that he noticed for the fii'st time the 
tracks of a shod horse ; and saw where the animal had been 
tied to a tree that stood near the hut. 

" Carrambo ! " he exclaimed, on perceiving this sign, " the 
Capitan Aviericano has been hero in the night. Por Dios 1 I 
remember something — I thought I had di'canit it. I can guess 
his errand. He has heard of Don Mauricio's departure. Per- 
haps he'll repeat liis visit, when he thinks I'm in a proper state 
to receive him? Ha! ha! It don't matter now. The 
thing's all understood ; and I sha'n't need any further in- 
structions from him, till I've earned his thousand dollars. 
Mil pesos I What a splendid fortune ! Once gained, I shall 
go back to the Rio Grande, and see what can be done with 
Isidora." 

After delivering the above Foliloquy, he remained at his hut 
only long enough to swallow a lew mouthfuls of roasted iasajoy 
w^ashing them down with as many gulps of mezcal. Then 
having caught and caparisoned his horse, buckled on his 
huge heavy spurs, strapped his short carbine to the saddle, 
thrust a pair of pistols into their holsters, and belted the 



CUATRO CAVALLEBOS. 19? 

leathern sheathed machete on his hip, he sprang into the 
stirrups, and rode rapidly away. 

The short interval that elapsed, before making his appearance 
on the open plain, was spent in the suburbs of the village — waiting 
for the three horsemen who accompanied him, and who had been 
forewarned of their being wanted to act as his coadjutors, in 
some secret exploit that required their assistance. 

Whatever it was, his trio of confrhrea appeared to have been 
made acquainted with the scheme; or at all evenls that tho 
scene of the exploit was to be on tho Alamo. When a short 
distance out upon the plain, seeing Diaz strike off in a diagonal 
direction, they called out to warn him, that he was not going 
tho right way. 

" I know the Alamo well,*' said one of them, himself a mos- 
tanger. " I've hunted horses there many a time. It's south- 
west from here. The nearest way to it is through an opening 
in the chapparal you see out yonder. You are heading too 
much to the west, Don Miguel ! '* 

" Indeed ! " contemptuously retorted tho leader of the cuartiUa. 
" You're 2l gringo, Senor Vicente Barajo ! You forgot the errand 
we're upon ; and that we are riding shod horses ? Indians don't 
go out from Fort Inge and then direct to the Alamo to do — ^no 
matter what. I suppose you understand me ? " 

" Oh true ! " answered Senor Vicente Barajo, " I beg your 
pardon, Don Miguel. Carrambo ! I did not think of that." 

And without fui-ther protest, the three coadjutors of El Cqyoto 
fell into his tracks, and followed him in silence — scarce an- 
other word passing between him and them, till they had struck 
the chapparal, at a i)oint several miles above the opening of 
which Barajo had made mention. 

Once under cover of the thicket, the four men dismounted; and, 
after tying their horses to the trees, commenced a performance 
that could only be compared to a scene in the gentlemen's 
dressing-room of a suburban theatre, preliminary to the re- 
presentation of some savage and sanguinary drama. 



CIIArTER XLII. 

VULTURES ON THE WING. 



He wlio has tnivelled across the plains of Southern Texas 
cannot fail to have witnessed a spectacle of common occurrence — 
a flock of black ^^lltu^es upon tho wing. 

An hundred or more in the flock, swooping in circles, or wide 
spiral gjTations — now descending almost to touch the prairie 
sward, or the spray of the chapparal — anon soanng upward by 
a power in which the wing bears no part — their pointed pinions 



198 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

sharply cutting against the clear sky — they constitute a picture 
of rare interest, one truly characteristic of a tropical clime. 

The traveller who sees it for the first time will not fail to rein 
np his horse, and sit in his saddle, viewing it with feelings of 
curious interest. Even he who is accustomed to the spectacle 
will not pass on without indulging in a certain train of thought 
which it is calculated to call forth. 

There is a talc told by the assemblage of base birds. On 
the ground beneath them, whether seen by the traveller or not, 
is stretched some stricken creature — quadruped, or it may be 
WflP»^-dead, or it may be dying. 

• * * • • 

On the morning that succeeded that sombre night, when the 
three solitary horsemen made the crossing of the plain, a spectacle 
similar to that descril^ed might have been witnessed above the 
chapparal into wliich they had ridden. A flock of black vultures, 
of both species, was disporting above the tops of the trees, near 
the point where the avenue angled. 

At daybreak not one could have been seen. In less than an 
hour after, hundreds weixj hovering above the spot, on wide- 
spread wings, their shadows sailing darkly over the green spray 
of the chapparal. 

A Texan traveller entering the avenue, and ol)serving the 
ominous assemblage, would at once have concluded, that there 
was death upon his track. 

Going farther, he would have found confirmatory evidence, in 
a pool of blood trampled by the hooves of horses. 

Not exactly over this were the vultures engaged in their 
aerial evolutions. The centre of their sweepings appeared to 
be a point some distance off among the trees ; and there, no 
doubt, would be discovered the quarr}' that had called them 
together. 

At that early hour there was no traveller — Texan, or stranger 
— to test the truth of the conjecture ; but, for all that, it was 
true. 

At a point in the chapparal, about a quarter of a mile from 
the bood-stained path, lay stretched upon the ground the object 
that was engaging the attention of* the vultures*. 

It was not carrion, nor yet a quadrnped ; but a human being — 
a man !• 

A young man, too, of noble lineaments and graceful shape — 
so far as could be seen under the cloak that shrouded hii re- 
cumbent form — with a face fair to look upon, even in death. 

Was he dead ? 

At first sight any one would have said so, and the black birds 
believed it. His attitude and countenance seemed to proclaim it 
beyond question. 

He was lying upon his back, with face upturned to the sky — 
no care being taken to shelter it from the sun. His limbs, too, 



VULTURES ON THE WING. 199 

were not in a natural posture ; but extended stiffly along the 
stony snrfiice, as if he had lost the power to control them. 

A colossal tree was near, a live oak, but it did not shadow 
him. He was outside the canopy of its frondajje ; and the sun's 
beams, just beginning to penetrate the chapparal, were slanting 
down npon his pale face — paler by reflection from a white 
Panama hat tliat but partially shaded it. 

His features did not seem set in death : and as little was it 
like sleep. It had more the look of death tlian sleep. The 
eyes were but half eloped ; and the pnpils could be seen glancing 
through the lashes, glassy and dilated. 

Was the man dead ? 

Beyond doubt, the black birds l>elieved that he was. 

But the black birds were judging only by appearances. Their 
wish was parent to the thought. They were mistaken. 

Whether it was the glint of the sun striking into his half- 
screened orbs, or nature Ixjconiing wstored alter a period of 
repose, the eyes of the prostrate man were seen to open to their 
full extent, while a movement was perceptible throughout his 
whole frame. 

Soon after he raised himself a little ; and, resting upon his 
elbow, stared confusedly around him. 

The vultures soared upwanl into the air, and for the time 
maintained a higher flight. 

" Am I dead, or living ? " muttered he to himself. " Dream- 
ing, or awake ? Which is it ? AVhei-e am J ? " 

The sunlight was blinding him. He could see nothing, till ho 
had shaded his eyes with his hand ; tlien only indistinctly. 

" Trees above — around me ! Stones underneath ! That I can 
tell by the aching of my bones. A chapparal forest ! How came 
I into it? 

" Now I have it," continued he, after a short spell of reflection. 
" My head was dashed against a tree. There it is — the very 
limb that lifted me out of the saddle. My left leg pains me. 
Ah ! I remember ; it came in contact with the truuk. By 
heavens, I believe it is broken ! *' 

As he said tiiis, ho made an effort to raise himself into an 
erect attitude. It proved a failure. His sinister limb would 
lend him no aflsistauce : it was swollen at the knee-joint — 
either shattered or dislocated. 

'• Where is the horse ? Gone off, of course. By this time, in 
the stables of Casa del Cnrvo. T need not care now. I could 
not mount him, if ho were standing by n\y side. 

" The other ? " he added, after a ]>ause. *' Good heavens ! what 
a spectacle it was I So wonder it scared the one I was riding ! 

"What am F to do ? My leg may be broken. I can't stir 
from this spot, without some (me to help nie. Ten chances to one 
-—a hundred — a thousand — against any one coming this way ; at 
least not till I've become foot! for those filthy birds. Ugh ! the 



200 THE UEADLES3 HOSSEUAK. 

hideous bi-utes ; they stretch out their beaks, as if ahready sure 
of makmg a meal upon me ! 

" How long have I been lying here ? The sun don't seem 
very high. It was just daybreak, as I climbed into the saddle. 
I suppose I've been unconscious about an hour. By my faith, 
I'm in a serious scrape ? In all likelihood a broken limb — it 
feels broken — with no surgeon to set it ; a stony couclb in the 
heart of a Texan cliap]>ai*al — the thicket around me, perhaps 
for miles — no chance to escnpc from it of myself — no hope of 
human creature coming to help me — wolves on the earth, and 
vultures in the air ! Great God ! why did I mount, without 
making sure of the rein ? I may have ridden my last ride ! " 

The countenance of the young man became clouded ; and the 
cloud grew darker, and doe])er, as he continued to reflect upon 
the perilous position in which a simple accident had placed 
him. 

Once more he essayed to rise to his feet, and succeeded; 
only to find, that lie had but one leg on which he could rely ! 
It was no use, standing upon it ; and he lay down again. 

Two hours were passed without any change in his situation; 
during which he had caused the chapparal to ring with a loud 
hallooing. He only desisted fi'om this, under the conviction: 
that there was no one at all likely to hear him. 

The shouting caused thirst ; or at all events hastened the 
advent of this appetite — surely coming on as the concomitant of 
the injuries he had received. 

The sensation was soon experienced to such an extent that 
eveiy thing else — even the pain of his wounds — became of 
trifling consideration. 

" It will kill me, if I stay here ? " reflected the sufferer. " I 
must make an eflbrt to reach water. If I remember aright 
there's a stream somewhere in this chapparal, and not such a 
great way off*. I must get to it, if I have to crawl upon my 
hands and knees. Knees ! and only one in a condition to sup- 
port me ! There's no help for it but try. The longer I stay 
here, the worse it will be. The sun grows hotter. It already 
bums into my brain. I may lose my senses, and then — the 
wolves — the vultures " 

The hoiTid apprehension caused silence and shuddering. 

After a time he continued : 

*' If I but knew the right way to go. I remember the stream 
well enough. It runs towards the chalk prairie. It should be 
south-east, from here. I shall try that way. By good luck the 
sun guides me. If I find water all may yet be well. God give 
me strength to reach it ! " 

With this prayer upon his lips, he commenced making his 
way through the thicket — creeping over the stony ground, and 
di^agging aftor him his disabled leg, like some huge Saurian 
whoso vertebra) have been disjointed by a blow! 



VULTUEES ON THE WINO. 201 

Lizard-like, he continued his crawl. 

The effort was painful in the extreme ; but the apprehension ' 
from which he suffered was still more painful, and urged him to 
continue it. 

He well knew there was a chance of his falling a victim to 
thirst — almost a certainty, if he did not succeed in finding water. 

Stimulated by this knowledge he crept on. 

At short intervals he was compelled to pause, and recruit his 
strength by a little rest. A man does not travel far, on his hands 
and knees, without feeling fatigued. Much more, when one of 
the four members cannot be employed in the effort. 

His progress was slow and irksome. Besides, it was being 
made under the most discouraging circumstances. He might 
not be going in the right direction ? Nothing but the dread 
of death could have induced him to keep on. 

He had made about a quarter of a mile from the point of 
starting, when it occurred to him that a better plan of locomo- 
tion might bo adopted — one that would, at all events, vary the 
monotony of his march. 

" Perhaps," said he, " I might manage to hobble a bit, if I only 
had a crutch ? Ho ! my knife is still here. Thank fortune for 
that ! And there's a sapling of the right size— a bit of black- 
jack. It will do." 

Drawing the knife — a "bowie" — ^from his belt, he cut down 
the dwarf-oak ; and soon reducect it to a rude kind of crutch ; a 
fork in the tree serving for the head. 

Then rising erect, and fitting the fork into his armpit, he 
proceeded with his exploration. 

He knew the necessity of keeping to one course ; and, as he 
had chosen the south-east, he continued in this direction. 

It was not so easy. The sun was his only compass ; but this 
had now reached the meridian, and, in the ktitude of Southern 
Texas, at that season of the year, the midday sun is almost in the 
zenith. Moreover, he had the chapparal to contend with, re- 
quiring constant detours to take advantage of its openings. He 
had a sort of guide in the sloping of the ground : for he knew 
that downward he was more likely to find the stream. 

After proceeding about a mile — not in one continued march, but 
by short stages, with intervals of rest between — he came upon a 
track made by the wild animals that frequent the chapparal. It 
was slight, but running in a direct line — a proof that it led to 
some point of peculiar consideration — in all likelihood a water- 
ing-place — stream, pond, or spring. 

Any of these three would serve his purpose ; and, without 
longer looking to the sun, or the slope of the ground, he ad- 
vanced along the trail — now hobbling upon his crutch, and at 
times, when tired of this mode, dropping down upon his hands 
and crawling as before. 

The cheerful anticipations he had indulged in, on discovering 

K 3 



202 THE HEADLESS HOBSEUAN. 

the trail, soon came to a termination. It became blind. In other 
words it I'an out — ending in a glade surrounded by impervions 
masses of nndorwood. He saw, to his dismay, that it led Jrom 
the glade, instead of towards it. He had been following it tho 
wrong way ! 

Unpleasant as was the alternative, there was no other than to 
return upon his ti'ack. To stay in the glade would have been to 
die there. 

He retraced the trodden path — going on beyond the point 
where he had first struck it. 

Nothing but the torture of thirst could have endowed him with 
strength or spirit to proceed. And this was eveiy moment be- 
coming more unendumble. 

The trees through which ho was making way were mostly 
acacias, interspersed with cactus and wild agave. They afforded 
scarce any shelter from the sun, that now in mid-heaven glared 
down througli their gossamer foliage with tho fervour of fire itself. 

The perspiration, oozing through eveiy pore of his skin, in- 
creased tlic tendency to thii'st — until the appetite became an 
agony ! 

Within reach of his hand wero the glutinous legumes of the 
fnezquUea^ filled with mellifluous moistui*e. The agaves and 
cactus pljints, if tapped, would have exuded an abundance of 
juice. The former was too sweet, the latter too acrid to tempt 
him. 

He was acquainted with the chai-acter of both. He knew 
that, instead of allaying his thirst, they would only have added 
to its intensity. 

Ho passed tho depending pods, without plucking them. Ho 
passed the succulent stalks, without tapping them. 

To augment his anguish, he now discovered that the wounded 
limb was, every moment, becoming more unmanageable. It had 
swollen to enormous dimensions. Every step caused him a 
spasm of pain. Even if going in the direction of the doubtful 
streamlet, he might never succeed in reaching it ? If not, 
there was no hope for him. He could but lie down in the 
thicket, and die ! 

Death would not be immediate. Although suffering acute 
pain in his head, neither the shock it had received, nor 
tho damage done to his knee, were like to prove speedily 
fatal. Ho might dread a more painful way of dying thsji from 
wounds. Thirat would be his destroyer — of all shapes of death 
perhaps the most agonizing. 

The thought stimulated him to renewed efforts ; and despite 
tho slow progress he was able to make — despite tho pain ex- 
perienced in making it — ho toiled on. 

The black birds hovering above, kept pace with his halting 
step and laborious crawl. Now more than a mile firom the 
point of their first segregation, they were all of them still 



VULTURES ON THE WIXO. 

there — tlieir nnmbers even augmented by fresh detachments 
that had become warned of the expected prey. Though aware 
that the quany still lived and moved, they saw that it was 
stricken. Instinct — perhaps rather experience — told them it 
must soon succumb. 

Their shadows ci'ossed and recrossed the track upon which he 
advanced — filling him with ominous fears for the end. 

There was no noise : for these birds are silent in their flight — 
even when excited by the prospect of a repast. The hot sun 
had stilled the voices of the crickets and tree-toads. Even the 
hideous ** homed frog " reclined listless along the earth, shelter- 
ing its tuberculated ]x>dy under the stones. 

The only sounds to d&turb the solitude of the chapparal were 
those made by the sufferer himself — the swishmg of his 
garments, as they brushed against the hirsute plants that beset 
the path ; and occasionally his cries, sent forth in the famt 
hope of their being heard. 

By this time, blood was mingling with the sweat upon his skin* 
The spines of the cactus, and the clawlike thorns of the agave, 
had been doing their work ; and scarce an inch of the epidermis 
upon his face, hands, and liml)s, that was not rent with a 
laceration. 

He was near to the point of despondence — in real truth, he 
had reached it : for after a spell of shouting he had flung himself 
prostrate along the earth, despairingly indifferent about pro- 
ceeding farther. 

In all likelihood it was the attitude that saved him. Lying 
with his ear close to the surface, he heard a sound — so slight, 
that it would not have been otherwise discernible. 

Slight as it was, he could distinguish it, as the very sound 
for which his senses were sharpened. It was the mujrmur of 
moving water I 

With an ejaculation of joy, he sprang to his feat, as if nothing 
were amiss ; and made direct towards the point whence pro- 
ceeded the sound. 

He plied his improvised crutch with redoul^ed energy. Even 
the disabled leg appeared to sustain him. It was strength and 
the love of life, struggling against decrepitude and the fear of 
death. 

The former pix>ved victorious ; and, in ten minutes after, he 
lay stretched along the sward, on the banks of a crystal stream- 
let — wondering why the want of water could have caused him 
such indescribable agony ! 



204 



CHAPTER XLII. 

THE CUP AND THE JAIT. 

Once more the inustanger's liut ! Once more his henchman, 
astride of a stool in the middle of the floor ! Once more his 
hound lying astretch upon the skin-covered hearth, with snout 
half buried iu the cinders ! 

The relative positions of the man and the dog are essentially 
the same — as when seen on a former occasion — their attitudes 
almost identical. Otherwise there is a change in the picture 
since last painted — a transformation at once striking and sig- 
nificant. 

The horse-hide door, standing ajar, still hangs upon its hinges ; 
and the smooth coats of the w3d steeds shine lustrously along 
the walls. The slab table, too, is there, the trestle bedstead, the 
two stools, and the " shake down " of the servitor. 

But the other " chattels " wont to be displayed against the 
skin tapestry arc either out of sight, or displaced. The double 
gun has been removed from its rack ; the silver cup, hunting 
horn, and dog-call, are no longer suspended from their respective 
pegs ; the saddle, bridles, ropes, and scrapes are uiislung ; and 
the books, ink, pens, and papeUrie have entirely disappeared. 

At first sight it might bo supposed that Indians have paid a 
visit to the jacale, and pillaged it of its penates. 

But no. Had this been the case, Phelim would not be sitting 
so unconcernedly on the stool, with his carroty scalp still upon 
his head. 

Though the walls arc stripped nothing has been carried away. 
The articles are still there, only with a change of place ; and 
the presence of sevenil corded packages, Ipng irregularly over 
the floor— among which is the leathern portmanteau — proclaims 
the purpose of the transposition. 

Though a clearing out has not been made, it is evident that 
one is intended. 

In the midst of the general displacement, one piece of plen- 
ishing was still seen in its accustomed comer — the demijohn. 
It was seen by Phelim, oftencr than any other article in the 
room : for no matter in what direction he might turn his eyes, 
they were sure to come round again to that wicker-covered 
vessel that stood so temptingly in the angle. 

" Ach ! me jewel, it's there yez are ! " said he, apostrophizing 
the demijohn for about the twentieth time, " wid more than two 
quarts av the crayther inside yer bewtifull belly, and not 
doin* ye a bit av good, nayther. K the tinth part av it was 
inside av me, it wud be a moighty binnefit to me intistines. 
Trath wud it that same. Wudn't it, Tara ? *' 



THE CUP AND THE JAR. 205 

On bearing his name pronounced, the dog raised his head 
and looked inquiringly around, to see what was wanted of 
him. 

Perceiving that his human companion was but talking to 
himself, he resumed his attitude of repose. 

" Faix ! I don*t want any answer to that, owld boy. It's 
meself that knows it, ^vidout tillin'. A hape av good a glass of 
that same potyeen would do me ; and I dar'n't touch a dhrap, 
afther fwhat the masthcr sid to me about it. Afther all that 
packin', too, till me throat is stickin* to mc tongue, as if I had 
been thryin* to swallow a pitch plaster. Sowl ! it's a shame av 
Masther Maurice to make me promise agajTist touchin' the 
dhrink — cspacially when it's not goin' to be wanted. Didn't 
he say ho wudn't stay more than wan night, whin he come 
back hceur; an shure he won't conshumo two quarts in wan 
night — unless that owld sinner Stump comes along wid him. 
Bad luck to liis greedy gut ! he gets more av the Manongahayla 
than the masther himsilf. 

" There's wan consolashun, an' thank the Lard for it, we're 
goin' back to the owld sad, an' the owld place at Ballyballagh. 
Won't I have a skinful when I get thare — av the raal stuff too, 
instid of this Amerikyan rotgut ! Hooch — hoop — horoo ! The 
thought av it 's enough to sit a man mad wid deloight. Hooch — 
hoop — horoo ! " 

Tossing his wide-awake up among the rafters, and catching 
it as it came down again, the excited Galwegian several times 
repeated his ludicrous shibboleth. Then becoming tranquil he 
sate for awhile in silence — his thoughts dwelling with pleasant 
anticipation on the joys that awaited him at Ballyballagh. 

They soon reverted to the objects around him — more especially 
to the demijohn in the comer. On this once more his eyes 
became fixed in a gaze, in which increasing covetousness was 
manifestly visible. 

" Arrah, me jewel ! " said he, again apostrophizing the vessel, 
" yc*rc extramely bewtifull to look at — that same ye arr. Shure 
now, yez wudn't till upon me, if I gave yez a thrifle av a kiss ? 
Ye ^\'udn't be the thraitcr to bethray me ? Wan smack only. 
Thare can be no harum in that. Trath, I don't think the masther " 
'ud mind it — when he thinks av the throublc I've had wid this 
packin', an' the dhry dust gettin' down mc throat. Shure he 
didn't mane me to kapo that promise for this time — which differs 
intirely from all the rest, by razon av our goin' away. A dhry 
ilittin', they say, makes a short sittin'. I'll tell the masther that, 
whin he comes back; an' shure it '11 pacify him. Besoides, 
there's another ixcuse. He's all av tin hours beyant his time ; 
an' I'll say I took a thriflin' dhrap to kape me from thinkin' 
long for him. Shure he won't say a word about it. Be Sant 
Pathrick ! I'll take a smell at the dimmyjan, an' trust to good 
luck for the rist. Loy down, Tara ! I'm not agoin' out." 



206 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

The staghound liad risen, seeing the speaker step towards the 
door. 

But the dumb creature had misinterpreted the purpose — which 
was simply to take a survey of the path by which the jacalo 
was approached, and make sure, that, his master was not likely 
to interrupt him in his intended dealings with the demijohn. 

Becoming satisfied tliat the coast was clear, he glided back 
across the floor ; uncorked the jar ; and, raising it to his lips, 
swallowed something more than a "thriflin' dhrap av its 
contints." 

Then putting it back in its place, he returned to his seat on 
the stool. 

After remaining quiescent for a considerable time, he once 
more proceeded to soliloquize — now and then changing his 
speech to the apostrophic form — Tara and the demijohn being 
the individuals honoured by his discourse. 

" In the name av all the angels, an' the divils to boot, I won- 
dher what's kapin' the masther ! He sid he wud be heeur by 
eight av the clock in the mamin', and it's now good six in the 
afkhemoon, if thare's any truth in a Tixas sun. Shuro thare's 
somethin' detainin' him ? Don't yez think so, Taini ? " 

This time Tara did vouchsafe the afiirmative "sniff" — having 
poked his nose too far into the ashes. 

" Be the powers ! then, I hope it's no hai'um that's befallen 
him ! If there has, owld dog, fwhat 'ud become av you an' me ? 
Thare might be no Bally ballagh for miny a month to come ; 
unliss we cowld pay our passage wid these tliraps av the 
masther's. The diiukin' cup — raril silver it is — wud cover the 
whole expinse av the voyage. Be japers I now that it stroikes 
me, I niver had a dhrink out av that purty little vessel. I'm 
shure the liquor must taste swater that way. Does it, I won- 
dher — trath, now's just the time to thrj'." 

Saying this, he took the cup out of the portmanteau, in which 
he had packed it ; and, once more uncorking the demijohn, poured 
out a portion of its contents — of about the measui'e of a wine- 
glassful. 

QuajQ&ng it off at a single gulp, he stood smacking his lips — 
as if to assure himself of the quality of the liquor. 

" Sowl ! I don't know that it does taste betther," said he, 
still holding the cup in one hand, and the jar in the other. 
" Afther all, I think, it's swat-er out av the dimmyjan itself, 
that is, as far as I cyan renumber. But it isn't givin' the 
gawblet fair play. It's so long since I had the jar to me mouth, 
that I a'most forget how it tasted that way. I cowld till betther 
if I thryed thim thegither. I'll do that, before I decoide." 

The demijohn was now raised to his lips ; and, after several 
" glucks " was again taken away. 

Then succeeded a second series of smacking, in true con- 
noisseur fashion, with the head held reflectingly steadfisist. 



THE CUP AND THE JAB. 207 

^' Tratli ! on' I'm wrong agane ! '* said he, accompanying 
the remark with another doubtful shake of the head. 
" Althegither asthi*ay. It's swater from the silver. Or, is it 
only me imaginayshin that's desavin' me ? It*s worth while 
to make shurc, an I can only do that by tastin' another ihrifle 
out av the cup. That wud be givin' fair play to both av the 
vessels ; for I've dhruiLk twice from the jar, an' only wanst from 
the silver. Fair play's a jewil all the world over ; and thaie's 
no raison why this bewtiftd little mug showldn't be trated as 
dacently as that big basket av a jar. Be japers ! but it shall 
tho' ! " ' . . . 

The cup was again called into requisition ; and once more a 
portion of the contents of the demijohn were transferred to it — 
to be poured immediately after down the insatiable throat of 
the unsatisEed connoisseur. 

Whether he eventually decided in favour of the cup, or 
whether he retained his preference for the jar, is not known. 
After the fourth potation, which was also the final one, he 
appeared to think he had tasted sufficiently for the time, and 
laid both vessels aside. 

Instead of retm'ning to his stool, however, a new idea came 
across his mind ; which was to go forth from the hut, and see 
whether there was any sign to indicate the advent of his 
master. 

" Come, Tara ! " cried he, striding towards the door. " Let us 
stip up to the bluff beyant, and take a look over the big plain. 
If masther's comin' at all, he shud be in sight by this. Come 
along, ye owld dog ! Masthor Maurice '11 think all the betther 
av US, for bein' a little unazy about his gettin' back." 

Taking the path through the wooded bottom — with the stag- 
hound close at his heels — the Galwegian ascended the bluff, by 
one of its sloping ravines, and stood upon the edge of the upper 
plateau. 

From this point ho commanded a view of a somewhat sterile 
plain ; that sti*etched away eastward, more tlian a mile, from 
the spot where he was standing. 

The sun was on his back, low down on the horizon, but 
shining from a cloudless sky. There was nothing to interrupt 
his view. Here and there, a stray cactus plant, or a solitary 
stem of the arborescent yucca, raised its hirsute form above 
the level of the plain. Otherwise the surface was smooth ; and 
a coyote could not have crossed it without being seen. 

Beyond, in the far distance, could be traced the darker outline 
of trees — where a tract of chapparal, or the wooded selvedge 
of a stream stretched transversely across the llano. 

The Galwegian bent his gaze over the ground, in the direc- 
tion in which he expected his master should appear ; and stood 
silently watching for him. 

Ere long his vigil was rewarded. A horseman was seen 



208 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

coming out from among the trees upon the other aide, and 
heading towards the Alamo. 

He was still more than a mile distant ; but, even at that dis- 
tanee, the faithful servant could identify his master. The 
striped serape of brilliant hues — a true Navajo blanket, which 
Maurice was accustomed to take with him when travelling — was 
not to be mistaken. It gleamed gaudily under the glare of the 
setting sun — its bands of red, white, and blue, contrasting with 
the sombre tints of the sterile plain. 

Phelim only wondered, that his master should have it spread 
over his shoulders on such a sultry evening instead of folded 
np, and strapped to the cantlc of his saddle ! 

" Trath, Tara ! it looks quarc, doesn't it ? It's hot enough to 
roast a stake upon these stones ; an' yit the masther don't seem 
to think so. I hope he hasn't caught a cowld from stayin' in 
that close crib at owld Duffer's tavern. It wasn't fit for a pig 
to dwill in. Our own shanty 's a splindid parlour to it." 

The speaker was for a time silent, watching the movements of 
the approachijig horseman — by this time about lialf a mile dis- 
tant, and still drawing nearer. 

When his voice was put forth again it was in a tone alto- 
gether changed. It was still that of surprise, with an approach 
towards merriment. But it was mirth that doubted of the 
ludicrous ; and seemed to struggle under restraint. 

"Mother av ^Moscs!" cried he. "What can the masther 
mane? Not con tint with havin' the blankyet upon his 
showldhers, be japers, he's got it over his head ! 

" He's play in' us a thrick, Tara. He wants to give you an' me 
a surproise. He wants to have a joke agaynst us ! 

" Sowl ! but it's ([uare anyhow. It looks as if ho had no 
head. In faix doos it I Ach ! what cyan it mane ? Be the Howly 
Virgin ! it's enough to frighten wan, av they didn't know it was 
the masther ! 

"I* it the masther? Be the powers, it 's too short for him ! 
The head ? Saint Patrick presai-ve us, wharo is it ? It cyan*t 
be smothered up in the blankyet ? Thare's no shape thare ! 
Be Jaysus, thare's somethin' wrong ! What does it mane, 
Tara?" 

The tone of the speaker had again undergone a cliange. It 
was now close bordering upon terror — as was also the expression 
of his countenance. 

The look and attitude of the staghound were not very 
different. He stood a little in advance — half cowering, hafr 
inclined to spring forward — with eyes glaring wildly, while fixed 
upon the approaching horseman — now scarce two hundred 
yards from the spot! 

As Phelim put tlie question that terminated his last soliloquy, 
the hound gave out a lugubrious howl, that seemed intended 
for an answer. 



THE CUP AND THE JAR. 209 

Then, as if urged by some canino instinct, he bounded off 
towards the strange object, which puzzled his human com- 
panion, and was equally puzzling him. 

Rushing straight on, he gave utterance to a series of shrLll 
yelps ; far different from the soft sonorous baying, with which 
he was accustomed to welcome the coming home of the mus- 
tanger. 

If Phelim was surpnsed at what he had already seen, he was 
still further astonished by what now apx)earcd to him. 

As the dog drew near, still yelping as he ran, the blood-bay— 
which the ex-groom had long before identified as his master's 
horse — turned sharply round, and commenced galloping back 
across the plain ! 

Wliile performing the wheel, Phelim saw — or fancied he 
saw — that, which not only astounded him, but caused the blood 
to run chill through his veins, and his frame to tremble to the 
very tips of his t^es. 

It was a head — that of the man on horseback ; but, instead 
of being in its proper place, upon his shoulders, it was held in 
the rider's hand, just behind the pommel of the saddle ! 

As the horse turned side towai'ds him, Phelim saw, or fancied 
he saw, the face — ghastly and covered with gore — half hidden 
behind the shaggy hair of the holster ! 

He saw no more. In another instant his back was turned 
towards the plain ; and, in another, he was rushing down the 
ravine, as fast as liis enfeebled limbs would carry him ! 



CHAPTER XLIV. 

A QUARTETTE OF COMANCnES. 



With his flame-coloured curls bristling upward — ^almost raising 
the hat from his head — the Galwegian continued his retreat — 
ptfusing not — scarce looking back, till he had re-entered the jacale, 
closed the skin door behind him, and barricaded it with several 
large packages that lay near. 

Even then he did not feel Kccurc. What protection could 
there be in a shut door, barred and bolted besides, against that 
which was not earthly ? 

And surely what he had seen was not of the earth — not of 
this world ! Who on earth had ever witnessed such a spectacle 
— a man mounted upon horseback, and can^-ing his head in his 
hand ? Who had ever heard of a phenomenon so unnatural ? 
Certainly not " Phaylim Onale." 

His hoiTor still continuing, he rushed to and fro across the 
floor of the hut ; now dropping down upon the stool, anon rising 



210 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAX- 

up, and gliding^ to the door : but without daring either to open 
it, or look out through the chinks. 

At inter\'als he tore the hair out of his head, striking his 
clenched hand against his temples, and roughly rubbing his eyes 
— as if to make sure tliat he was not asleep, but had really 
seen the shape that was horrifying him. 

One thing alone gave him a moiety of comfort ; though it 
was of the slightest. While retreating down the ravine, before 
his head liad sunk below the level of the plain, he had given 
a glance backward. He had derived some gratification from 
that glance ; as it showed the headless rider afar off on the 
prairie, and with Ixick turned toward the Alamo, going on at a 
gallop. 

But for the remembrance of this, tlie Galwegian might have 
been still more terrified — if that wei-e possible — while striding 
back and forth upon the floor of the jacale. 

For a long time he was speechless — not knowing what to say 
— and oidy giving utterance to such exclamations as came me- 
chanically to his lips. 

As the time passed, and he began to feel, not so much a return 
of confidence, as of the power of ratiocination, his tongue became 
restored to him ; and a continuous fire of questions and exclama- 
tions succeeded. They were all addressed to himself. Tara 
was no longer there, to take part in the conversation. 

They were put, moreover, in a low whispered tone, as if 
in fear that his voice might be heard outside the jacale. 

" Ochone ! Ochonc ! it cyan't av been him ! Sant Pathrick 
protict me, but fwliat was it thin P 

"Thare was iverything av liis — the horse — the sthriped 
blankyet — them spotted watlier guards upon his legs — an' the 
head itself — all except the faytures. Thim I saw too, but wasn't 
shure about eyedintifycashin ; for who kud till a face all covered 
over wid rid blood ? 

" Ach ! it cudn't be Ma,sthcr Maurice at all, at all ! 

" It's all a dhi*ame. I must have l^een aslape, an dhramin ? 
Or, was it the whisky that did it ? 

" Shure, I wasn't dhrunk enough for that. Two goes out 
av the little cup, an' two more fi'om the dimmyjan — not over a 
kupple av nagfrins in all ! That wudn't make me dhrunk. I've 
taken twice that, widout as much as thrippin in my spache. 
Trath have I. Besoides, if I had been the worse for the liquor, 
why am I not so still P 

" Thare's not half an hour passed since I saw it; an' I'm as 
sober as a judge upon the binch av magistrates. 

"Sowl ! a dhrap 'ud do me a power av good just now. If I 
don't t'lko wan, I'll not get a wink av slape. I'll Iw) shure to 
kape awake all the night long thinkin' about it. Ochone ! 
ochone ! what cyan it 1x3 anyhow ? An' where cyan the 
masther l)e, if it wasn't him r Howly Sant Pathrick ! look down 



A QUARTETTE OF COMANCHES. 211 

an watch over a miserable sinner, tliat*s lifb all alone be 
himself, wid nothiii' but ghosts an' goblins around him ! '' 

After tills appeal to the Cathohc saint, the Connemara man 
addi*essed himself with still moro zealous devotion to the 
worship of a very different divinity, known among the ancients 
as Bsiechus. 

His suit in this quarter proved perfectly successful ; for in 
less than an hour after he liad entered upon his genuflexions at 
^ the shrine of the pagan god — represented by the demijohn of 
" Monongahela whisky — he was shrived of all his sufferings — ^if 
not of his sins — and lay stretched along the floor of the jacal^, 
not only oblivious of the spectacle that had so late terrified him 
to tlie very centre of his soul, but utterly unconscious of his 
soul's existence. 

« « « « « 

There is no sound within the hut of Maurice thcmustanger — 
not even a clock, to tell, by its continuous ticking, that the 
hours arc passing into eternity, and that another midnight is 
mantling over the wirth. 

There arc sounds outside ; but only as usual. The rippling 
of the stream close by, the whispering of the leaves stinred by 
the night wind, the chirrup of cicadas, the occasional cry of 
some wild crcatui-e, ai-e but the natural voices of the noctornal 
forest. 

^Midnight has ari'ived, with a moon that assimilates it to 
morning. Her light illumines the earth ; here and there pene- 
trating through the slmdowy trees, and flinging broad silvery 
lists between them. • 

Passing through these alternations of light and shadow — 
apparently avoiding the former, as much as possible — goes a 
group of mounted men. 

Though few in number — as there are only four of them — ^they 
are formidable to look upon. The vermihon glanng redly over 
their naked skins, the stnped and spotted tatooing upon their 
cheeks, the scarlet feathers standing stiffly upright above their 
heads, and the gleaming of weapons held in their hands, all 
bespeak strength of a savage and dangerous kind. 

AVhenco come they ? 

They are in the war costume of the Comanche. Their paint 
proclaims it. There is the skin fillet around the temples, with 
the eagle j)lunies stuck Ix-hiiid it. The bare breasts and arms ; 
the buckskin breech-clouts — eveiythiiig in the shape of sippi by 
which these Ishmaelites of Texas may be recognized, when 
out upon the ma raw!. 

They must be Coiuanches : and, therefore, have come from tho 
west. 

Wliither go they ? 

This is a tjuestion more cai?ily answei*ed. They are closing 
in upon the hut, where lies tho unconscious inebriate. The 



212 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

jacale of Maurice Gerald is evidently the Intt of tlieir expe- 
dition. 

That tlicir intentions ai-e hostile, is to be inferred from the 
fact of their wearing the war costume. It is also apparent 
from their manner of making approach. Still ftirther, by their 
dismounting at some distance from the hut, securing their 
horses in the underwood, and continuing their advance on foot. 

Their stealthy trciul — taking care to plant the foot lightly 
upon the fallen leaves — the precaution to keep inside the sliadow 
— the frccjuent ])auses, spent in looking ahead and listening— 
the silent gestures with which these movements are directed 
by him who appears to be the leader — all proclaim design, to 
reach the jacale unperceived by whoever may chance to be 
inside it. 

In this they are successful — so far as may be judged by appear- 
ances. They stand by the stockade walls, without any sign 
being given to show that they have been seen. 

The silence inside is complete, as that they are themselves 
observing. There is nothing heard — not so much as the screech 
of a hearth-cricket. 

And yet the hut is inhabited. But a man may get drunk 
beyond the power of speech, snoring, or even audibly breathing ; 
and in this condition is the tenant of the jacale. 

The four Comanches steal up to tlio door ; and in skulking 
attitudes scinitinize it. ' 

It is shut ; but there are chinks at the sides. 

To these the savages set their ears — all at the same time — 
and stand silently listening. 

No snoring, no breathing, no noise of any kind ! 
V " It is possible," says their chief to the follower nearest him — 
speaking in a whisper, but in good grammatical Castihan, 
"just possible he has not yet got home ; though by the time of 
hiB stai'ting he should have reached here long before this. He 
may have ridden out again ? Now I remember : there's a 
horse-shed at the back. If the man be inside the house, the 
beast should bo found in the shed. Stay here, camaradoa, till 
I go round and see." 

Six seconds suffice to examine the substitute for a stable. 
No horse in it. 

As many more arc spent in scrutinizing the path that leads 
to it. No horse has been there — at least not lately. 

These points determined, the chief returns to his followers — 
still standing by the doorway in front. 

^^ Mahlito ! '^ he exclaims, giving freer scope to his voice, 
"he's not hero, nor has he been this day." 

" We had l)etter go inside, and make sure ? " suggests one 
of the common warriors, in Spanish fairly pronounced. " There 
can be no harm in our seeing how the Irlandes has housed 
himself out here ? " 



A QUARTETTE OF C0MANCHE8. 213 

" Certainly not ! ** answers a third, equally well versed in 
the language of Cervantes. " Let's have a look at his larder 
too. I*m hungry enough to eat raw tasajo." 

" For Bios ! '* adds the fourth and last of the quartette, in 
the same sonorous tongue. " I've heard that he keeps a cellar. 
If so " 

The chief does not wait for his follower to finish the hypo- 
thetical speech. The thought of a cellar appears to produce a 
powerful effect upon him — stimulating to immediate action. 

He sets his heel upon the skin door, with the intention of 
pushing it open. 

It resists the effort. 

" Canramho ! it's barred inside ! Done to keep out intruders 
in his absence ! Lions, tigers, bears, buffaloes — ^perhaps Indians. 
Ha! ha! ha!" 

Another kick is given with greater force. The door still 
keeps its place. 

" Barricaded with something — something heavy too. It won't 
yield to kicking. No matter. I'll soon see what's inside." 

The machete is drawn from its sheath ; and a large hole cut 
through the stretched skin, that covers the light fmmework of 
wood. 

Into this the Indian thrusts his arm ; and groping about, 
discovers the nature of the obstruction. 

The packages are soon displaced, and the door thrown open. 

The savages enter, preceded by a broad moonbeam, that lights 
them on their way, and enables them to obscn-'c the condition 
of the interior. 

A man lying in the middle of the floor ! 

" Carajo ! " 

" Is he asleep ? " 

" He must be dead not to have heard us ? " 

" Neither," says the chief, after stooping to examine him, 
**only dead drunk — horacho — embriagu<ido ! He's the servitor 
of the Irlandes. I've seen this fellow before. From his manner 
one may safely conclude, that his master is not at homo, nor has 
been lately. I hope the bruto hasn't used up the cellar in 
getting himself into this comfortable condition. Ah ! a jar. 
And smelling like a rose ! There's a rattle among these rods. 
There *s stuff inside. Thank the Lady Guadaloupe for this ! " 

A few seconds siiifice for distributing what remains of the 
contents of the demijohn. There is enough to give each of the 
four a drink, with two to their chief; who, notwitlistanding his 
high rank, has not the superior politeness to protest against 
this uue<[ual distribution. In a trice the jar is empty. 

What next ? 

The master of the house must come home, sometime or other. 
An interview with him is desired by the men, who have made 
a call upon him — particularly desired, as may be told by the 



214 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAK. 

unseasonable hour of their visit. The chief is especially anxious 
to see him. 

What can four Comanche Indians want with Maurice the 
mustanger Y 

Their talk discloses their intentions : for among themselves 
they make no secret of tlieir object in being there. 

Thetf hare come to juuvder him ! 

Theii* chief is tlie instigator ; the others are only his instru- 
ments and assistants. 

The business is too important to peraiit of his trifling. He 
will gain a thousand dollars In' the di'cd — ^Ixjsides a certain 
gratification indi'pendent of the money motive. His three 
braves will earn a hundred each — a sum sufficient to tempt the 
cupidity of a Comanche, and purchase him tor any purpose. 

The travestie need not be earned any fui'ther. By this time 
the mask must have fallen off. Our Comanches are mere 
Mexicans ; tlieir chief, ^Miguel IJiaz, the mustanger. 

" We must lie in wait for him.*' 

This is the counsel of El Coyote. 

"He cannot be much longer now, whatever may have detained 
him. You, liarajo, go up to the bluff, and keep a look-out over 
the phiin. The rest remain here with me. He must come 
that way from the Lcona. We can meet him at the bottom of 
the gorge under the big cvpress tree. 'Tis the best place for 
our purpose." 

"Had we not better silence him?''' hints the bloodthirsty 
Barajo, pointing to the Galwegian — fortunately unconscious of 
what is transpirintr around him. 

"Dead men tell no tales ! " adds another of the conspirators, 
repeating the jn-ovi-rb in its original language. 

" It would tell a worse tale were we to kill him," rejoins 
Diaz. "Besides, it's of no use. He's silent enough as it is, 
the droll devil. Let the dog have his day. I've only bargained 
for the life of his master. Come, Barajo ! Vai/afe ! vayate ! 
Up to the clitf. We can't tell the moment Don Mauricio may 
drop in ui)on us. A miscarriage must not be made. We may 
never have such a chance again. Take your stand at the top of 
the gorge. From that point you have a view of the whole 
plain. He cannot come near without your seeing him, in such 
a moonlight as this. As soon as you've set eyes on him, hasten 
down and let us know. Be sure you give us time to get under 
the cypress." 

Barajo is ]>roceeding to yield obedience to this chapter of in- 
structions, but with evident reluctance. He has, the night 
before, been in ill luek, having lost to Kl (V)yote a largo sum at 
the game of monte. lie is desirous of having his revanche: for 
he well knows how his confreres will spend the time in his 
absence. 

" Quick, Seiior A'icente," commands Diaz, observing his 



A QUAKIXTXE OF COMAJSfCHSS. 215 

dislike to the duty imposed upon him ; " if we fail in this business, 
you will lose more than you can gain at an albur of mont6. 
Go, man ! " continues El Coyote, in an encouraging way. " If 
he come not within the horn*, some one will relieve you. Go ! " 

Barajo obeys, and, stepping out of the jacale, proceeds to his 
post upon the top of the cliff. 

The others seat themselves inside the hut — having already 
established a light. 

Men of their class and calling generally go pro\'ided with the 
means of killing time, or, at all events, hindering it fi*om hanging 
on tlieir liauds. 

The slab table is between them, upon which is soon displayed, 
not their supper, but a pack of Spanish cards, which every 
Mexican vagahondo carries under his scrape. 

CavaUo and sofo (queen and knave) are laid face upward ; a 
monto table is established ; the cards are shuffled ; and the play 
proceeds. 

Absorl)ed in calculating the chances of the game, an hour 
passes without note being taken of the time. 

El Covote is banker, and also croupier. 

The cries '' Cavalh en la piteriar' ''Soto mozo!]' ("The 
queen in the gate!** "The knave winner!") — at intervals 
announced in set phrase — echo from the skin-covered waUs. 

The silver dollars are raked along the rough table, their sharp 
chirfk contrasting with the sofl shuffle of the cai^ds. 

All at once a more stentorous sound interrupts the play, 
causing a cessation of the game. 

It is the screech of the inebriate, who, awaking from his trance 
of intoxication, perceives for tlie first time the queer company 
tliat share with him the shelter of the jacale. 

The players spring to their i^et, and draw their machetes. 
Phelim stands a fair chance of being skewered on three long 
Toledos. 

He is only saved by a contingency — another intemiption that 
has the effect of staying the intent. 

Barajo appears in the doorway panting for breath. 

It is scarce necessary for him to announce his en*and, though 
he contrives to gasp out, — 

" He is coming — on the bluff already — at the head of the 
Canada — quick, comrades, quick!" 

The Gahve^ian is saved. There is scarce time to kill him 
— even Avere it worth while. 

But it is not — at least so think the masqueraders ; wlio leave 
him to resume his disturbed slumber, and rush forth to accom- 
plish the more profitable assassination. 

In a score of seconds they are under the cliff, at the bottom of 
the sloping gorge by which it must be descended. 

They take stand under the branches of a spreading cypress ; 
and await the approach of their victim. 



216 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

They listen for the hoofstrokes that should annoimoe it. 
These are soon heard. There is the clinking of a shod hoof 
— not in regular strokes, but as if a horse was passing over 
an uneven surface. One is descending tlio slope ! 

He is not yet visible to the eyes of the ambuscaders. Even 
the gorge is in gloom — like the valley below, shadowed by tall 
trees. 

There is but one spot where the moon throws light upon the 
turf — a narrow space outside the sombre shadow that conceals the 
assassins. Unfortunately tliis does not lie in the path of their 
intended victim. He muat pass under the canopy of the 
cypress ! 

" Don't kill him ! " mutters Miguel Diaz to his men, speaking 
in an earnest tone. "There's no need for that just yet. I 
want to have liim alive — for the matter of an hour or so. 
I have my reasons. Lay hold of him and hi»5 horse. There 
can be no danger, as he will be taken by surprise, and unpre- 
pared. If there be resistance, we must shoot him down ; but 
let me fire first.'* 

The confederates promise compliance. 

They have soon an opportunity of proving the sincerity of 
their promise. He f(^r whom they are waiting has accomplished 
the descent of the slope, and is passing under the shadow of the 
cypress. 

** Ahajo las arm as ! A t terra .' " (" Down with your weapons. 
To the ground ! ") cries El Coyote, rushing forward and seizing 
the bridle, while the cither three fling themselves upon the maa 
who is seated in the saddle. 

There is no resistance, either by struggle or blow ; no blade 
drawn ; no shot discharged : not even a word spoken- in 
protest ! 

They see a man standing upright in the stirrups ; they lay 
their hands upon limbs that feel solid flesh and bona, and 
yet seem insensible to the touch ! 

The hoi'so alone shows resistance. He rears upon 1 is hind 
legs, makes ground backward, and draws his captcrs after 
him. 

He carries them into the light, where the moon is sinning out- 
side the shadow. -^ 

Merciful heaven ! what does it mean ? 

His capters let go their hold, and fall back wRh a simul- 
taneous shout. It is a scream of wild terror ! ' 

Not another instant do they stay under the cypress ; but 
commence retreating at top speed towards the thicket where 
their own ste»eds have been left tied. 

Mounting in mad haste, they ride rapidly away. 

They have seen that which has^ already stricken terror into 
hearts more courageous than theirs — a horseman without a 
head! 

i 



I 



217 



CHAPTER XLV. 

A TRAIL GONE BLIND. 



Was it a phantom ? Siuxily it could not be human ? 

So questioned El Coyote and his terrified companions. So, 
too, had the scared Gulwegian interrogated himself, until his 
mind, clouded by repeated appeals to the demijohn, became 
temporarily relieved of the terror. 

In a similar sti*ain had run the thoughts of more than a 
hundred others, to whom the headless horseman had shown him- 
self — the party of searchers who accompanied the major. 

It was at an earlier hour, and a point in the prairie five 
rniles farther east, that to these the weird figure had made itself 
manifest. 

Looking westwai-d, with the sun-ghirc in their eyes, they had 
.seen only its shape, and nothing more — at least nothing to con- 
nect it with Maurice the mustanger. 

Viewing it from the west, with the sun at his back, the GraJ- 
wegian had seen enough to make out a resemblance to his 
master — if not an absolute identification. 

Under the light of the moon the four Mexicans, who knew 
Maurice Gerald by sight, had arrived at a similar conclusion. 

If the impression made upon the servant was one of the 
wildest awe, equally had it stricken the conspiratoi^s. 

The searchers, though less frightened by the strange pheno- 
menon, were none the less puzzled to explain it. 

Up to the instant of its disappearance no exphination had 
been attempted — save that jocularly conveyed in the bizaiTe 
speech of the borderer. 

** What do you make of it, gentlemen ? '* said the major,, 
addressing those that had clustered around him : *' I confess it 
mystifies me." 

"An Indian ti-ick?" suggested one. "Some decoy to draw 
us into an ambuscade ? " 

" A most unlikely lure, then ;" remarked another ; " ccrt^iinly 
the last that would attract mo." 

*' I don't think it's Indian," said the major; " I don't know 
what to tliink. AVIiat's your opinion of it, Spangler ? " 

The tracker shook his head, as if equally uncertain. 

" Do you think it's an Indian in disguise ? '' urged the ofliccr, 
pressing him for an answer. 

"I know no more than yourself, major," I'oplicd lie. "It 
should he somethin' of that kind : for what else can it be ? It 
must oyther be a man, or a dummy ! " 

" That's it — a dummy ! " cried several, evidently relieved by 
the hypothesis. 

L 



:218 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAN. 

" Whatsomcver it is — ^man, dummy, or devil," said the firon- 
ticrsman, who had already pronounced upon it, "thar's no 
reason why wo should be frightened from foUowin* its trail. 
Has it left any, I wonder ? ** 

" If it has," replied Spangler, " we'll soon see. Ours goes 
the same way — so fur as can be judged from here. Shall wo 
move forr'ad, major? " 

** By all means. We must not be turned from our purpose 
by a trifle like that. Forward ! " 

The horsemen again advanced — some of them not without a 
show of reluctance. There were among them men, who, if left 
to themselves, would have taken the back track. Of this number 
was Calhoun, who, from the first moment of sighting the strange 
apparition, had shown signs of aflright even beyond the rest 
of his companions. His eyes had suddenly assumed an un- 
natural glassiness ; his lips were white as ashes ; while his 
drooping jaw laid bare two rows of teeth, which he appeared 
with difficulty to restrain from cliattering ! 

But for the universal confusion, his wild manner might have 
been observed. So long as the singular form was in sight, 
there were eyes only for it ; and when it had at length dis- 
appeared, and the party advanced along the trail, the ex-captaia 
hung back, riding unobserved among the rearmost. 

The tracker had guessed aright. The spot upon which tho 
ghostly shape had for tho moment stood still, lay direct upon 
the trail tliey were already taking up. 

But, as if to prove the apparition a spirit, on reaching tho 
place there were no tracks to be seen ! 

The explanation, however, was altogether natural. Where 
the horse had wheeled round, and for miles beyond, the plain 
was thickly strewn with white shingle. It was, in trapper par- 
lance, a " chalk prairie." The stones showed displacement ; 
and here and there an abrasion that appeared to have been nuulc 
by the hoof of a horse. But these marks were scarce dis- 
cernible, and only to the eyes of the skilled tracker. 

It was the case with the trail they had l)een taking up— that 
of the shod mustang ; and as the surface had lately been dis- 
turbed by a wild herd, the pai'ticular hoof-marks could no 
longer be distinguished. 

They might have gone further in the direction taken by 
the headless rider. The sun would have been their guide, and 
after that the evening star. But it was the rider of the shod 
mustang they were desirous to overtake ; and the half hour of 
daylight that followed was spent in fruitless search for his trail 
— gone blind among the shingle. 

Spangler proclaimed himself at fault, as the sun disappeared 
over the horizon. 

They hud no alternative but to nde back to the chapparal, and 
bivouac among the bushes. 



A TRAIL OONI BLIND. 219 

' The intention was to make a fresh trial for the recoyery of the 
trail, at the earliest hour of the morning. 

It was not fulfilled, at least as regarded time. The trial was 
postponed by an nnexpccted circumstance. 

Scarce had they formed camp, when a courier arrived, bringing 
a despatch for the major. It was from the commandhig officer 
of the district, whose head-quarters were at San Antonio de 
Bexar. It had been sent to Fort Inge, and thence forwarded. 

The major made known its tenor by ordering " boots and 
saddles ** to be sounded ; and before the sweat had become dry 
upon the horses, the dragoons were once more upon their backs. 

The despatch had conveyed the intelligence, that the Co- 
manches were committing outrage, not upon the Lcona, but 
fifty miles farther to the eastward, close to the town of San 
Antonio itself. 

It was no longer a mere rumour. The maraud had com- 
menced by the murder of men, women, and children, with the 
firing of their houses. 

The major was commanded to lose no time, but bring what 
troops he could spare to the scene of operations. Hence his 
hurried decampment. 

The civilians might have stayed ; but friendship — even parental 
afiection — must yield to the necessities of nature. Most of them 
had set forth without further preparation than the saddling of 
their horses, and shouldering their guns ; and hunger now called 
them home. 

There was no intention to abandon the search. That was to bo 
resumed as soon as they could change horses, and establish a 
better system of commissariat. Then would it be continued — 
as one and all declared, to the " bitter end." 

A small party was left with Spangler to take up the trail of 
the American horse, which according to the tracker's forecast 
would lead back to the Leona. The rest returned along with 
the dragoons. 

Before parting with Poindexter and his fnends, the major made 
known to them — what he had hitherto kept back — the facts 
relating to the bloody sign, and the tracker's interpretation of 
it. As he was no longer to take part in the search, he thought 
it better to communicate to those who should, a circumstance so 
important. 

It pained him to direct suspicion upon the joxmcr Irishman ; 
with whom in the way of his calling he had held some pleasant 
intercourse. But duty was paramount; and, notwithstanding 
his disbelief in the mustanger's guilt, or rather his belief in its 
improbability, he could not help acknowledging that appear- 
ances were against him. 

With the planter and his party it was no longer a suspicion. 
Now that the question of Indians was disposed of, men boldly 
proclaimed Maurice Gerald a murderer. 

L 2 



220 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

That the deed had been done no one thought of doubting. 
Oberdoffer's story had furnished the first chapter of the evidence. 
Henry's horse returning with the blood-stained saddle the last. 
The intermediate links were readily supplied — partly by the 
interpretations of the tracker, and partly by conjecture. 

No one paused to investigate the motive — at least with any 
degree of closeness. The hostility of Gerald was accounted for 
by his quarrel with Calhoun ; on the supposition that it might 
have extended to the whole family of the Poindexters I 

It was very absurd reasoning ; but men upon the track of a 
supposed murderer rarely reason at all. They think only of de- 
stroying him. 

With this tliought did they separate; intending to start 
afresh on the following morning, throw themselves once more 
upon the trail of the two men who were missing, and follow it 
up, till one or both should be found — one or both, living or 
dead. 

• #**«« 

The party left with Spauglcr remained upon the spot which 
the major had chosen as a camping ground. 

They were in all less than a dozen. A larger number was 
deemed unnecessary. Comanchcs, in that quarter, were no 
longer to be looked for ; nor was there any other danger that 
called for a strength of men. Two or thi'ee would have been 
sufficient for the duty required of them. 

Nine or ten stayed — some out of curiosity, others for the sake 
of companionsliip. They were chiefly young men — sons of 
planters and the like. Calhoun was among them — the acknow- 
ledged chief of the party ; though Spangler, acting as guide, 
was tacitly understood to be the man to whom obedience should 
be given. 

Cistead of going to sleep, after the others had ridden away, 
they gathered around a roanng tire, already kindled within the 
thicket glade. 

Among them was no stint for supper— rcither of eatables or 
drinkables. The many who had gone back — knowing they 
would not need them — ^had surrendered their haversacks, and the 
" heel-taps " of their canteens, to the few who remained. 
There was liquor enough to last through the night — even if 
spent in continuous carousing. 

Despite their knowledge of this — despite the cheerful crackling 
of the logs, as they took their seats around the fire — they were 
not in high spirits. 

One and all appeared to be under some influence, that, like a 
spell, prevented them from enjoying a pleasure perhaps not sur- 
passed upon earth. 

You may talk of the tranquil joys of the domestic hearth. 
At times, upon the prairie, I have myself thought of, and longed 
to return to them. But now, looking back upon both, and 



A TRAIL OOKS BLIKD. 221 

calmly comparing them, one with the other, I cannot help 
exclaiming : 

" Give me the circle of the camp-fire, with half-ar dozen of my 
hunter comrades around it — once again give me that, and be 
welcome to the wealth I have accumulated, and the trivial 
honours I have gained — thrice- welcome to the care and the toil 
that must still be exerted in retaining them." 

The sombre abstraction of their spirits was easily explained. 
The weird shape was fresh in their thoughts. They were yet 
under the influence of an indefinable awe. 

Account for the apparition as they best could, and laugh at it — 
as they at intervals affected to do — they could not clear their 
minds of this unaccountable incubus, nor feel satisfied with any 
explanation that had been offered. 

The guide Spangler partook of the general sentiment, as did 
llieir leader Calhoun. 

The latter appeared more affected by it than any of the 
ixarty! Seated, with moody brow, under the shadow of the 
trees, at some distance from the fire, he had not spoken a word 
since the departure of the dragoons. Nor did he seem disposed 
to join the circle of those who were basking in the blaze ; but 
kept himself apart, as if not caring to come under the scrutiny of 
his companions. 

There was still the same wild look in his eyes — the same 
scared expression upon Ids features — that had shown itself 
before sunset. 

" I say, Cash Calhoun ! " cried one of the young fellows by the 
fire, who was beginning to talk " tall," under the influence of the 
oft-repeated potations — " come up, old fellow, and join us in a 
drink ! We all respect your sorrow ; and will do what we 
can to get satisfaction, for you and yours. But a man mustn't 
always mope, as you're doing. Come along here, and take a 
* smile ' of the Monongaheela ! It'll do you a power of good, I 
promise you." 

Whether it was that he was pleased at the interpretation put 
upon his silent attitude— which the speech told him had been 
observed — or whether he had become suddenly inclined towards 
a feeling of good fellowship, Calhoun accepted the invitation ; and 
stepping up to the fire, fell into line with the rest of the roysterers. 
Before seating himself, he took a pull at the proffered flask. 

From that moment his air changed, as if by enchantment. 
Instead of showing sombre, he became eminently hilarious — 
so much so as to cause surj^riso to more than one of the party. 
Tlie behaviour seemed odd for a man, whose cousin waa sup- 
posed to have been murdered that very morning. 

Though commencing in the character of an invited guest, he 
soon exhi bited himself as the host of the occasion. After the others 
had emptied their respective flasks, he proved himself possessed 
of a supply that seemed inexhaustible. Canteen aft^r canteen 



222 THE HEADLESS H0RSE3IA>\ 

came forth from his capaciona saddle-bags— the legacy left by 
many departed friends, who had gone back with the major. 

Partaking of these at the iiiTitation of their leader — eneoti- 
raged by his example — the yoimg planter "bloods" who en- 
circled the camp fire, talked, sang, danced, roared, and even 
rolled around it, until the alcohol could no longer keep them 
awake. Then, yielding to exhausted nature, they sank ba<^ npon 
the sward, some perhaps to experience the dread slumber of a 
first intoxication. 

The ex- officer of volunteers was the last of the number irho 
laid himself along the grass. 

If the last to lie down, he was the first to get up. Scirce 
had the carousal ceased — scarce had the sonorous breathing of 
his companions proclaimed them asleep — when he rose into an 
erect attitude, and with cautious steps stole out from among them. 

With like stealthy tread he kept on to the confines of the 
camp— to the spot where his horse stood " hitched " to a tree. 

Bieleasing the rein from its knot, and throwing it over the 
neck of the animal, he clambered into the saddle, and rode 
noiselessly away. 

In all these actions there was no evidence that he was intoxi- 
cated. On the contrarj'', they proclaimed a clear brain, bent 
upon some purpose previously determined. 

What could it be ? 

Urged by affection, was he going forth to trace the mystery of 
the murder, by finding the body of the murdered man P Did he 
wish to show his zeal by going alone ? 

Some such design might have been interpreted from a series 
of speeches that fell carelessly from his lips, as he rode through 
the chapparal. 

" Thank God, there's a clear moon, and six good hours before 
those youngsters will think of getting to their feet ! I'll have 
time to search every comer of the thicket, for a couple of 
miles around the place ; and if the body be there I cannot &il 
to find it. But what could that thing have meant ? If Fd been 
the only one to see it, I might have believed myself mad. But 
they all saw it — every one of them. Almighty heavens ! what 
could it have been ? " 

The closing speech ended in an exclamation of terrified srov 
prise — elicited by a spectacle that at the moment presented itself 
to the eyes of the ex-officer — causing him to rein up his horse, 
as if some dread danger was before him. 

Coming in by a side path, he had arrived on the edge of the 
opening already described. He was just turning into it, when 
he saw, that he was not the only horseman, who at that late hour 
was traversing the chapparal. 

Another, to all appearance as well mounted as himself, was 
approaching along the avenue — not slowly as he, but in a quick 
trot. 



A SECKET COMrCDED. 223 

Long before the strange rider had come near, the moon- 
light, shining fall upon him, enabled Calhoun to see that he was 
headUis I 

There cotild be no mistake about the observation. Though 
qnicklj made, it was complete. The white moon beams, silvering 
his shonlders, were reflected from no face, above or between 
them ! It could be no illusion of the moon's light. Calhoim 
had seen that same shape under the glare of the sun. 

He now saw more — ^the missing head, ghastly and gory^ 
half shrouded behind the hairy holsters ! More still — he recog- 
nized the horse — the striped scrape upon the shoulders of the 
rider — the water-guards upon his legs— the complete capariflon 
— aU the belongings of Maurice the mustanger ! 

He had ample time to take in these details. At a stand in 
the embouchure of the side patli, terror held him transfixed to 
the spot. His horse appeared to share the feeling. Trembling 
in its tracks, the animal made no effort to escape ; even when 
the headless rider pulled up in front, and, with a snorting, rear- 
ing steed, remained for a moment confronting the frightened 
party. 

It was only afber the blood bay had given utterance to a wild 
" whigher " — responded to by the howl of a hound close following 
at his heels — and turned into the avenue to continue his inter- 
rupted trot — only then that Calhoun became sufficiently released 
from the spell of horror to find speech. 

" God of heaven ! " he cried, in a quivering voice, " what can 
it mean? Is it man, c* demon, that mocks me? Has thii 
whole day been a dream r Or am I mad — ^mad — mad ? " 

The scarce coherent speech was succeeded by action, instan- 
taneous but determined. Whatever the purpose of his explora- 
tion, it was evidently abandoned : for, turning his horse with a 
wrench upon the rein, he rode back by the way he had come- 
only at a far faster pace, — pausing not till he had re-entered the 
encampment. 

Then stealing up to the edge of the fire, he lay down 
among the slumbering inebriates — ^not to sleep, but to stay 
trembling in their midst, till daylight disclosed a haggard 
pallor upon his cheeks, and ghastly glances sent forth from his 
sunken eyes. 



CHAPTER XLVI. 

A SECRET CONFIDED. 



The first dawn of day witnessed an unusual stir in and 
around the hacienda of Casa del Corvo. 

Its courtyard was crowded with men — armed, though not in 



2:!4 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

the regular fashion. Ther carried long hnntiiig rifles, having 
a calibre of sLxtv to the pound: double-barrelled shot guns; 
single-bamcrlled pi^^tols ; revolrers : knives with long blades ; and 
even tomahawks ! 

In their varied attire of red flannel shirts, coats of coloured 
blanket, and " Kentucky jeans/" trowsers of brown ^'homespun," 
and blue " c^.ttoiiade," liats of felt an J caps of skin, tall boots of 
tanned IcatLcr. and leggings of buck — these stalwart men fur- 
nished a fairbful picture of an assemblage, such as may be often 
seen in the frontier settlements of Texas. 

Despite the lizarrerie of their appearance, and the fiict of 
their carryiug weapons, there wa» nothinsr in either to proclaim 
their object in thus coming t*>gether. Had it been for the most 
pacific purpose, they would have been armed and apparelled just 
the same. 

But their object is known. 

A numlx.*r of the men so met, had been out on the day before, 
along with the dragoons. Others had now joined the assemblage 
— settlers who lived farther away, and hunters who had been 
from home. 

The muster on this morning was greater than on the preceding 
day — even exceedinrr the strength of the searching party when 
supplemented by the soldiers. 

Though all were civilians, there was one portion of the assem- 
bled crowd tliat conld boast of an organization. Irregular it 
may Ix? deemed, notwithstanding the name by which its members 
were di.^tinguished. These were the " BegulatorBy 

There was nothing distinctive ab nt them, either in their 
dress, arms, or equipments. A stranger would not have known a 
Regulator from any other individual. They knew one another. 

Their talk was of murder — of the murder of Henry Poindexter 
— coupled with the name of Maurice the mustanger. 

Another subject was discussed of a somewhat cognate cha- 
racter. Those who had seen it, were telling those who had not 
— of the strange spectacle that had appeared to them the evening 
iKjfore on the prairie. 

Some were at first incredulous, and treated the thing as a joke. 
But the wholesale testimony — and the serious manner in which 
it was given — could not long be resisted ; and the existence of 
the headless J/orsnuan became a universal belief. 

Of course theic was an attempt to account for the odd phe- 
nomenon, and many forms of explanation were suggested. The 
only one, tliat seemed to give even the semblance of satisfaction, 
was that already set for^'ard by the frontiersman — that the 
horse was real enough, but the ricler was a counterfeit. 

For what purpose such a trick should be contrived, or who 
should bo its contriver, no one pretended to explain. 

For the business that had brought them togther, there was but 
little time wasted in preparation. All were prepared already. 



A S£CK£T CONFIDED. 225 

Their horses were outside — some of them held in hand by the 
servants of the establishment, bat most " hitched " to whatever 
would hold them. 

They had come warned of their work, and only waited for 
Woodley Poindexter — on this occasion their chief— to give the 
signal for setting forth. 

He only waited in the hope of procuring a guide ; one who 
could conduct them to the Alamo — who could take them to the 
<loniicilc of Maurice the mustanger. 

There was no such person present. Planters, merchants, 
shopkeepers, lawyers, hunters, horse and slave-dealers, were all 
alike ignorant of the Alamo. 

There was but one man belonging to the settlement supposed 
to be capable of performing the required service — old Zeb Stump. 
But Zeb could not be found. He was absent on one of his 
stalking expeditions ; and the messengers sent to summon him 
were returning, one after another, to announce a bootless 
errand. 

There was a teaman, in the hacienda itself, who could have 
guided the searchers upon their track — to the very hearthstone 
of the supposed assassin. 

Woodley Poindexter knew it not ; and perhaps well for him 
it was so. Had the proud planter suspected that in the person 
of luR own child, there was a guide who could have conducted 
him to the lone hut on the Alamo, his sorrow for a lost son 
would have been stifled by anguish for an erring daughter. 

The last messenger sent in search of Stump came back to 
the hacienda without him. The thirst for vengeance could be no 
longer stayed, and the avengers went foi'th. * * # 

They were scarce out of sight of Casa del Corvo, when the 
two individuals, who could have done them such signal service, 
became engaged in conversation within the walls of the hacienda 
itself. 

There was nothing clandestine in the meeting, nothing de- 
signed. It was a simple contingency, Zeb Stump having just 
come in from his stalking excursion, bringing to the hacienda a 
portion of the " plunder " — as he was wont to term it — procured 
by his unerring rifle. 

Of course to Zeb Stump, Louise Poindexter was at home. 
She was even eager for the interview — so eager, as to have kept 
almost a continual watch along the river road, all the day before, 
from the rising to the setting of the sun. 

Her vigil, resumed on the departure of the noisy crowd, was 
soon after rewarded by the sight of the hunter, mounted on his 
old marc — the latter laden with the spoils of the chase — slowly 
moving along the roa<l on the opposite side of the river, and 
manifestly making for the hacienda. 

A glad sight to her — that rude, but grand shape of colossal 
manhood. She recognized in it the form of a true friend — one 

L 3 



226 TUE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

to whose keeping she could safely entrust her most secret confi- 
dence. And she had now such a secret to confide to him ; that 
for a night and a day had been painfully pent up within her 
bosom. 

Long before Zeb had set foot upon the flagged pavement 
of the patio, she had gone out into the verandah to receive 
him. 

The air of smiling nonchalance with which he approached, 
proclaimed him still ignorant of the event which had cast its 
melancholy shadow over the house. There was just perceptible 
the slightest expression of surprise, at finding the outer gate shut, 
chained, and barred. 

It had not been the custom of the hacienda — at least during 
its present proprietary. 

The sombre countenance of the black, encountered within the 
shadow of the saguan, strengthened Zeb's surprise — sufi&ciently 
to call forth an inquiry. 

" Why, Piute, olc fellur ! whatsomdiver air the matter wi' ye ? 
Yur lookin' like a 'coon wi' his tail chopped off— clost to the 
stump at thet ! An' why air the big gate shet an' barred— 
in the middle o' breakfist time ? I hope thur hain't nuthin' gone 
astray ? " 

" Ho ! ho ! Mass 'Tump, dat's jess wliat dar liab goed stray— 
dat's preecise de ting, dis chile sony t' say — berry much goed 
stray. Ho! berry, berry much ! " 

" Heigh ! " exclaimed the hunter, startled at the lugubrious 
tone. " Tbnr air sommeat amiss ? What is't, nigger ? Tell me 
sharp quick. It can't be no >\tiss than yur face shows it. 
Nothin' happened to yur young mistiness, I hope? Miss 
Lewaze " 

" Ho — ho ! nuflin' happen to de young Missa Looey. Ho — ho ! 
Bad enuf 'thout dat. Ho ! de yoimg missa inside de house yar. 
'Tep in. Mass' 'Tump. She tell you de drefful news hcrscff." 

" Ain't yur master inside, too ? He's at home, ain't he ? '* 

" Golly, no. Dis time no. Massa ain't 'bout de house at all 
nowhar. Ho wa' hya a'most a quari'er ob an hour ago. He no 
hya now. Ho off to de boss prairas — wha de hab de big hunt 
'bout a momf ago. You know, Mass' Zeb ? " 

" The boss purayras ! What's tuk him thur ? Whose along 
wi'him?" 

" Ho ! ho ! dar's Mass Gaboon, and gobs o' odder white 
genlum. IIo ! ho ! Dar's a mighty big crowd ob dem, dis nigga 
tell you." 

" An' yur young Master Henry — air he gone too ? " 

" O Mass' 'Tump ! Dat's wha am be trubble. Dat's de whole 
ob it. Mass' Hen' he gone too. He nebba mo' come back. 
De boss he been brought home all kibbered over wif blood. 
Ho ! ho ! de folks say Massa Henry he gone dead." 

" Dead I Yur jokin' ? Air ye in aimest>, nigger ? " 



A SECRET COTnriDED. 227 

" Oh ! I iB, Mass' 'Tump. Sorry dis chile am to hab say dat 
am too troo. Dey all gone to sarch atter de body." 

" Hynr ! Take these things to the kitchen. Thnr's a 
gobbler, an' some purayra chickens. Whar kin I find Miss 
Lewazo ? " 

" Here, ^£r. Stump. Come this way ! " replied a sweet voice 
well known to him, bnt now. speaking in accents so sad he 
wonld scarce have recognized it. 

" Alas ! it is too tnic what Pinto has been telling yon. My 
brother is missing. He has not been seen since the night before 
last. His horse came home, with spots of blood upon the saddle. 

Zeb ! it 's fearfdlto think of it ! " 

" Sure enuf that air ugly news. He rud out somewhar, and 
the hoss kim back 'ithout him ? I don't weesh to gie ye im- 
needcessary pain, Miss Lewaze ; but, as they air still sarchin% 

1 mout be some help at that ere bizness ; and maybe ye won't 
mind tcllin' me the particklers ? " 

These were imparted, as far as known to her. The garden 
scene and its antecedents were alone kept back. Oberdoffer 
was given as authority for the belief, that Henry had gone off 
after the mustanger. 

Tlie narrative was interrupted by bursts of grief, changing 
to indignation, when she came to tell Zeb of the suspicion 
entertained by the people — that Maurice was the murderer. 

" It air a lie ! " cried the hunter, partaking of the same senti- 
ment : "a false, parjured lie ! an' he air a stinkin' skunk that 
invented it. The thing's unpossible. The mowstanger ain't the 
man to a dud sech a deed as that. An' why shed he have dud 
it? If thur hed been an ill-feelin' atween them. But thur 
wa'n't. I kin answer for the mowstanger — for more'n oncost 
I've heem him talk o' your brother in the tallest kind o' tarms. 
In coorse he hated yur cousin Cash — an' who doesn't, I shed 
like to know ? Excuse me for sayin' it. As for the other, it air 
different. Bf thar hed been a quarrel an' hot blood atween 
them " 

" No — no ! " cried the young Creole, forgetting herself in the 
agony of her grief. " It was all over. Henry was reconciled. 
He said so ; and Maurice " 

The astounded look of the listener brought a period to her 
fipeech. Covering her face with her hands, she buried her con- 
fusion in a flood of tears. 

" Hoh — oh ! " muttered Zeb ; " thur hev been some thin' ? 
D'ye say. Miss Lewaze, thur war a — a — quan-el atween yur 
brother " 

" Dear, dear Zeb ! " cried she, removing her hands, and con- 
fronting the stalwart hxmter with an air of earnest entreaty, 
" promise me, you will keep my secret ? Promise it, as a friend 
— as a brave true-hearted man ! You will — ^you will ? " 

The pledge was given by the hunter raising his broad palm. 



228 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

and extending it with a sonorous slap over the region of his 
heart. 

In five minutes more he was in possession of a secret which 
woman rarely confides to man — except to him who can pro- 
foundly appreciate the confidence. 

The hunter showed less surprise than might have been 
expected ; merely muttering to liimself : — 

" I thort it wud come to somethin' o' the sort — specially arter 
thet ere chase acrost the purayra.'* 

" Wal, Miss Lewaze," he continued, speaking in a tone of 
kindly approval, " Zcb Stump don't see any thin' to be ashamed 
o' in all thet. Weemcn will be weemen all the world over — on 
the purayras or oil* o' them ; an' ef ye have lost yur young 
heart to the mowstangcr, it wud be the tallest kind o' a mistake 
to sei'posc ye hev displaced yur affeckshuns, as they calls it. 
Though he air Irish, he aint none o' the common sort ; thet he 
aint. As for the rest p've been tellin' me, it only sarves to 
substantify what I've been sayin' — that it air parfickly unpossi- 
ble for the mowstanger to hev dud the dark deed ; that is, ef 
thur's been one dud at all. Let's hope thur's nothin' o' the 
kind. What proof hcz been found ? Only the hoss comin' 
home wi' some rid spots on the seddle ? " 

" Alas ! thore is more. The people wore all out yesterday. 
They followed a trail, and saw something, they would not tell 
me what. Father did not appear as if he wished me to know 
what they had seen ; and I — I feared, for reasons, to ask the 
others. They've gone oft' again — only a short while — just as you 
came in sight on the other side." 

" But the mowstanger ? What do he sslj for hisself r " 

" Oil, I thought you knew. He has not been found either. 
Mon Dieu ! mon Dieu ! He, too, may have fallen by the same hand 
that has struck down my brother ! " 

" Ye say they war on a trail ? His'n I serpose ? If he be 
livin' he ought<>r be foun' at liis shanty on the crik. \Miy didn't 
they go thar ? Ah ! now I think o't, thur's nobody knows the 
adzack sittavashuu o' that ere domycile 'ceptin' myself I reckon ; 
an' if it war that gi-eenhom Spangler as war guidin' o' them he'd 
niver be able to lift a trail acrost the chalk purayra. Hev they 
gone that way agin? " 

" They have. I heard some of them say so." 

" Wal, if they're gone in sarcli o' the mowstanger I reck'n I 
mout as well go too. I'll gie tall odds I find him afore they 
do." 

" It is for that I've been so anxious to see you. There are 
many rough men along with papa. As they went away I 
heard them use wild words. There were some of those called 
* Regulators.' They talked of lynching and the like. Some of 
them swore temble oaths of vengeance. O my God ! if they 
should find him, and he cannot make clear his innocence, in the 



AN INTEKCEPTED EPISTLE. 22^ 

height of their angry passions — cousin Cassias among the num- 
l)er — you understand what I mean — who knows what may be 
done to him ? Dear Zeb, for my sake — for his, whom you call 
iriend — go — go ! R^ach the Alamo before them, and warn him 
of the danger ! Your horse is slow. Take mine — any one you 
can Ihid in the stable " 

" Tlmr's some truth in what ye say," interrupted the hunter, 
preparing to move off. " Thur mout be a smell o' danger for the 
young fellur; an' I'll do what I kin to avart it. Don't be 
uneezay, Miss Lewaze. Thur's not seeh a partickler hurry. Thet 
ei'e shanty ain't agoin' ter be foun' 'ithout a spell o' sarchin'. As 
to ridin' yur spotty I'll manage better on my ole maar. Beside, 
the critter air reddy now if Pluto hain't tuk off the saddle. 
Don't be greetin' yur eyes out — thet's a good chile ! Maybe it'll 
be all right yit 'bout yur brother ; and as to the mowstanger, 
I hain't no more surspishun o' his innersense than a unborn 
babby." 

The inter^'iew ended by Zeb making obeisance in backwoods- 
man style, and striding out of the verandah ; while the young 
Creole glided off to her chamber, to soothe her troubled spirit in 
supplications for his success. 



CHAPTER XLVII. 

AN INTEKCEPTED EPISTLE. 



Urged by the most abject fear, had El Coyote and his three 
comrades rushed back to their horses, and scrambled confusedly 
into the saddle. 

They had no idea of returning to the jacale of Maurice Gerald. 
On the contrary, their only thought was to put space between 
themselves and that solitary dwelling — whose owner they had 
encountered riding towards it in such strange guise. 

That it was " Don Mauricio " not one of them doubted. All 
four knew him by sight — Diaz better than any — but all well 
enough to be sure it was the IrJandes, There was his horse, 
known to them ; his armas de ar/ita of jaguar-skin ; his Navajo 
blanket, in shape differing from the ordinary scrape of Saltillo ; — 
and his head ! 

They had not stayed to scrutinize the features ; but the hat 
was still in its place — the sombrero of black glaze which Maurice 
was accustomed to wear. It had glanced in their eyes, as it came 
under the light of the moon. 

Besides, they had seen the great dog, which Diaz rememl)ered 
to he his. The staghound had spning forward in the midst of the 
struggle, and witli a fierce growl attacked the assailants — 
though it had not needed this to accelerate their retreat. 



230 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

Fast as their horses could carry them, they rode throngh the 
bottom timber ; and, ascending the blnfP by one of its ravines — 
not that where they had meant to commit murder — they reached 
the level of the upper plateau. 

Nor did they halt there for a single second ; but, galloping 
across the plain, re-entered the chapparal, and spurred on to the 
place where they had so skilfully transformed themselves into 
Comanches. 

The reverse metamorphosis, if not so carefully, was more 
quickly accomphshed. In haste they washed the war-paint 
from their skins — availing themselves of some water carried 
in their canteens ; — ^in haste they dragged their civilized habili- 
ments from the hoUow tree, in which they had hidden them ; and, 
putting them on in like haste, they once more mounted their 
horses, and rode towards the Leona. 

On their homeward way they conversed only of the headless 
horseman : but, with their thoughts under the influence of a super- 
natural terror, they could not satisfactorily account for an ap- 
pearance so unprecedented ; and they were still undecided as 
they parted company on the outskirts of the village — each going 
to his own jacale. 

"CWrrflr//" exclaimed the Coyote, as he stepped across the 
threshold of liis, and dropped down upon his cane couch. " Not 
much chance of sleeping after that. Santos Dios ! such a sight ! 
It has chilled the blood to the very bottom of my veins. And 
nothing here to warm me. The canteen empty ; the posada 
shut up ; everybody in bed ! 

" Madre de Dios ! what can it have been ? Ghost it could not 
be ; flesh and bones I grasped myself; so did Vicente on the 
other side ? I felt tliat, or sometliing very like it, under the 
tiger-skin. Santissima ! it could not be a cheat ! 

" If a contrivance, why and to what end ? Who cares to play 
carnival on the prairies— except myself, and my camarados? 
Mil demonios ! what a grim masquerader ! 

" Carajo I am I forestalled ? Has some other had the offer, and 
earned the thousand dollars? Was it the Irlandes himself, 
dead, decapitated, carrj-iiig liis head in his hand ? 

"Bah! it could not be — ridiculous, unlikely, altogether im- 
probable ! 

"But what then? 

" Ha ! I have it ! A hundred to one I have it ! He may have 
got warning of our visit, or, at least, had suspicions of it. Twas a 
trick got up to try us ! — perhaps liimself in sight, a witness of our 
disgraceful flight ? Maldito ! 

" But who could have betrayed us ? No one. Of course no 
one could tell of that intent. How then should he have pre- 
pared such an infernal surprise ? 

" Ah ! I forget. It was broad daylight as we made the 
crossing of the long prairie. We may have been seen, and our 



AN INTERCEPTED EFISTLI. 231 

purpose suspected ? Just so — just so. And then, while we were 
making our toilet in the chapparal, the other could have been 
contrived and effected. That, and that only, can bo the explana- 
tion ! 

" Fools ! to have been firightcned at a scarecrow ! 

" Carramho ! It shan't long delay the event. To-morrow I 
go back to the Alamo. I'll touch that thousand yet, if I should 
have to spend twelve months in earning it ; and, whether or 
not, the deed shall bo done all the same. Enough to have lost 
Isidora. It may not be true ; but the very suspicion of it puts 
mo beside myself. If I but find out that she loves him — that 
they have met since — since — Mother of God ! I shall go mad ; 
and in my madness destroy not only the man I hate, but the 
woman I love ! O Doiia Isidora Covarubio de los Llanos ! Angel 
of beauty, and demon of mischief ! I could kill you with my caresaes 
— I can kill you with my steel ! One or other shall be your fate. 
It is for you to choose between them ! '* 

His spirit becoming a little tranquillized, partly through being 
relieved by this conditional threat — and partly from the explana- 
tion he had been able to arrive at concerning the other thought 
that had been troubling it — he soon after fell asleep. 

Nor did he awake until daylight looked in at his door, and 
along with it a visitor. 

" Jose ! " he cried out in a tone of surprise in which pleasure 
was perceptible — " you here ? *' 

" Si, Scnor; yo estoyT 

" Glad to see you, good Jose. The Doiia Isidora here ? — on the 
Leona, I mean ? " 

" 67, Senorr 

" So soon again ! She was here scarce two weeks ago, was 
she not ? I was away from the settlement, but had word of it. I 
was expectiug to hear from you, good Jose. Why did you not 
write ? " 

" Only, Seilor Don Miguel, for want of a messengerjthat 
could be relied upon. I had something to communicate, that 
could not with safety be entnisted to a stranger. Something, I 
am sorry to say, you won*t thank me for telling you ; but my life 
is yours, and I promised you should know all." 

The "prairie wolf sprang to his feet, as if pricked with a 
sharp-pointed thorn. 

" Of her, and him ? I know it by your looks. Your mis- 
tress has met him ? " 

" No, Sefior, she hasn't — not that I know of — ^not since the 
first time." 

" What, then ? " inquired Diaz, evidently a little relieved. 
" She was here while he was at the posada. Something passed 
between them? " 

" True, Don Miguel — something did pass, as I well know, 
being myself the bearer of it. Three times I carried him a 



232 THE U£ADL£SS HORSEMAN. 

basket of dulces, sent by the Doiia Isidora — the last time also 
a letter." 

" A letter ! You know the contents ? You read it ? ** 

"Thanks to your kindness to the jioor peon boy, I was able to 
do that ; more still — to make a copy of it." 

" You have one ? " 

" I have. You see, Don Miguel, you did not have me sent to 
school for nothing. This is what the Doiia Isidora wrote to 
him." 

Diaz reached out eagerly, and, taking hold of the piece of 
paper, proceeded to devour its contents. 

It was a copy of the note that had been sent among the 
sweetmeats. 

Instead of further exciting, it seemed rather to tranquillize 
him. 

" Car ra mho .' " he carelessly exclaimed, as he folded up the 
epistle. " There's not much in this, good Jose. It only proves 
that your mistress is grateful to one who lias done her a service. 
If that's all " 

" But it is not all, Seiior Don Miguel ; and that's why I've come 
to see you now. I'm on an errand to the puehlifa. This will 
explain it." 

"Ha! Another letter ? " 

" Si\ Setior ! This time the original itself, and not a poor copy 
scribbled by me." 

"With a shaking hand Diaz took hold of the paper, spread it 
out, and read : — 

Al SEXoii Don MAunicio Gkkald. 

Querido amigo ! 

Otra vcz aqui csfoy — con tio Silvio qurdando I Sin novedades 
de V. no puedo mas tieinjw existir. La inceriitud me inataha, 
Digame que es V. convalescente I OJala^ que estuviera asi I Bus- 
piro en vuesfros ojos mirar, estos ojoa tan I in dog y tan espresivos-^ 
a ver, si es restahlecido vucstra salud. Sea graciosa darme este 
favor. Hay — opportunidad. En una corfita media de hora, estu- 
viera quedando en la cima de loma, sobre la cosa del tio. Yen, 
cavallero, ven ! 

Isidora Govaruiuo de los Llanos. 

With a curse El Coyote concluded the reading of the letter. 
Its sense could scarce be mistaken. Literally translated it .read 
thus : — 

" Dear Friend, — I am once more here, staying with uncle Silvio. 
Without hearing of you I could not longer exist. The uncer- 
tainty was killing me. Tell me if you are convalescent. Oh ! 
that it may be so. I long to look into your eyes — those eyes so 
beautiful, so expressive — to make sure that your health is 
perfectly restored. Be good enough to grant me this favour. 
There is an opportunity. In a short half hour from this time, 



ISIDOKA. 233 

I sliall be on the top of the hill, above my uncle's house. 
Come, sir, come! 

'^ISIDORA COVARUBIO DE LOS LlAKOS." 

** Carajo / an assignation ! " half shrieked the indignant Diaz. 
" That and nothing else ! She, too, the proposer. Ha ! Her 
invitation shall be answered ; though not by him for whom it is 
so cunningly intended. Kept to the hour — to the very minute ; 
and by the Divinity of Vengeance 

" Here, Josi' ! this note's of no use. The man to whom it is 
ndcb-essed isn't any longer in the pueblita, nor anywhere about 
here. God knows where he is ! There's some mystery about it. 
No matter. You go on to the posada, and make your inquiries 
all the same. You must do that to fiilfil your errand. Never 
mind the papelcito ; leave it -vWth me. You can have it to take to 
your mistress, as you come back this way. Here's a dollar to 
get you a drink at the inn. Seiior Doffer keeps the best kind of 
aguardiente. Ilasta luejo ! " 

Without staying to question the motive for these directions 
given to him, Jose, after accepting the douceur^ yielded taoit 
obedience to them, and took his departure from the jacal6. 

He was scarce out of sight before Diaz also stepped over its 
threshold. Hastily setting the saddle upon his horse, he sprang 
into it, and rode off in the opposite direction. 



CHAPTER XL\an. 

ISIDORA. 



The sun has just risen clear above the prairie horizon, his round 
disc still resting upon the sward, like a buckler of burnished 
gold. His rays are struggling into the chapparal, that here and 
there diversities the savanna. The dew-beads yet cling upon 
the acacias, weighting their feathery fronds, and causing them 
to droop eai-thward, as if grieving at the departure of the night, 
whose cool breeze and moist atmosphere are more congenial to 
them than the fiery sirocco of day. Though the birds are stirring 
— for what bird could sleep under the shine of such glorious 
sunrise? — it is almost too early to expect human beings 
abroad — elsewhere than upon the prairies of Texas. There, 
however, the hour of the sun's rising is the most enjoyable of the 
day ; and few tliero are who spend it upon the unconscious couch, 
or in the solitude of the chamber. 

By the banks of the Leona, some three miles below Fort Inge, 
there is one who has forsaken both, to stray through the chap- 
paral. Tliis early wanderer is not afoot, but astride a strong, 
spirited horse, that seems impatient at being checked in his 



234 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

paces. By this description, jon may suppose the rider to be a 
man ; but, remembering that the scene is in Southern Texas — 
still sparsely inhabited by a Spano-Mexican population — ^you arc 
equally at liberty to conjecture that the equestrian is a woman. 
And this, too, despite the round hat upon the head — despite the 
serape upon the shoulders, worn as a protection against uie chill 
morning air — despite the style of equitation, so oi^rv to European 
ideas, since the days of La Duchesso de Bern ; and still further, 
despite the crayon-like colouring on the upper lip, displayed in 
the shape of a pair of silken moustaches. More especially may 
this last mislead ; and you may fancy yourself looking upon 
some Spanish youth, whose dark but delicate features be- 

rik the Mjo de algo^ with a descent traceable to the times of 
Cid. 

If acquainted with the cliai'acter of the Spano-Mexican phy- 
siognomy, this last sign of vii-ility does not decide you as to the 
sex. It may be that the rider in the Texan chapparaJ, bo dis- 
tinguished, is, after all, a woman ! 

On closer scrutiny, this proves to be the case. It is proved by 
tlie small hand clasping the bridle-rein ; by the little foot^ whose 
tiny toes just touch the " cstribo " — ^looking less in contrast with 
the huge wooden block that serves as a stirrup ; by a certain 
softness of shape, and pleasing rotimdity of outline, • perceptible 
even through the thick serape of Saltillo ; and lastly, by the 
grand luxuiiance of hair coiled up at the back of the head, and 
standing out ia shining clump beyond the rim of the sombrero. 

After noting these points, you become convinced that you are 
looking upon a woman, though it may be one distinguished by 
certain idiosyncrasies. You are looking upon the Doria Isidora 
Covarubio de los Llanos. 

You are struck by the sti^angeness of her costume — still more 
by the way she sits her horse. In your eyes, unaccustomed to 
Mexican modes, both may appear odd— unfeminine — ^perhaps 
indecorous. 

The Dona Isidora has no thought — not even a suspicion — of 
there being anything odd in either. Why should she? She is 
but following the fashion of her country and her kindred. In 
neither respect is she peculiar. 

She is young, but yet a woman. She has seen twenty sum- 
mers, and perhaps one more. Passed under the sun of a Southern 
sky, it is needless to say that her girlhood is long since gone by. 

In her beauty there is no sign of decadence. She is fair 
to look upon, as in her "buen quince" (beautiful fifteen). 
Perhaps fairer. Do not suppose that the dark lining on her lip 
damages the feminine expression of her face. Rather does it 
add to its attractiveness. Accustomed to the glowing complexion 
of the Saxon blonde, you may at first sight deem it a deformity. 
Do not so pronounce, till you have looked again. A second 
glance, and — my word for it — ^you will modify your opinion. A 



isiDouA. 235 

third will do a>vBy with your indifference ; a fourth ohaage it to 
admiration ! 

Continue the scrutiny, and it will end in yonr beeoming can* 
vinced : that a woman wearing a monstache — young, beantifbly 
and brunette — ^is one of the grandest sights which a beneficent 
Nature offers to the eye of man. 

It is presented in the person of Isidora Gorarabio de los 
Llanos. If there is anything unfeminine in her face, it is not 
this ; though it may strengthen a wild, almost fierce, expressioQa, 
at times discernible, when her white teeth gleam conspicuously 
under the sable shadow of the " bigotite." 

Even then is she beantifol ; but, like that of the female jaguar, 
'tis a beauty that inspires fear rather than affection. 

At all times it is a countenance that bespeaks for its owner 
the possession of mental attributes not ordinarily bestowed upon 
lier sex. Firmness, determination, courage-— carried to the ex- 
treme of reckless daring — are all legible in its lines. In those 
cuimingly-carved features, slight, sweet, and delicate, there is no 
sign of fainting or fear. The crimson that has struggled through 
the brown skin of her cheeks would scarce forsake them in ue 
teeth of the deadliest danger. 

She is riding alone, through the timbered bottom of the 
Leona. There is a house not far off ; but she is leaving it behind 
her. It is the liacienda of her uncle, Don Silvio Martinez, from 
the portals of which she has late issued forth. 

She sits in her saddle as firmly as the skin that covers it. It 
is a spirited horse, and has the habit of showing it by his prancing 
paces. But you have no fear for the rider : you are sidisfied of 
her power to control him. 

A light lazo, suited to her strength, is saspended from the 
saddle-bow. Its carefrd coiling shows that it is never neglected. 
This almost assures you, that she understands how to use it. She 
does — can throw it, with the skill of a mustanger. 

The accomplishment is one of her conceits ; a part of the 
idiosyncrasy already acknowledged. 

She is riding along a road — ^not the public one that followB 
the direction of the river. It is a private way leading from the 
hacienda of her uncle, running into the former near the summit 
of a hill — the hill itself being only the bluff that abuts upon the 
bottom lands of the Leona. 

She ascends the sloping path — steep enough to try the breathing 
of her steed. She reaches the crest of the ridge, along which 
trends the road belonging to everybody. 

She reins up ; though not to give her horse an opportunity of 
resting. She has halted, because of having reached the point 
where her excursion is to terminate. 

There is an opening on one side of the road, of 'circular shape, 
and having a superficies of some two or three acres. It is grass- 
covered and treeless — a prairie in petto. It is surrounded by the 



23C THE UEADLESS HORSEMilN. 

chapparal forest— very different from tlie bottom timber out of 
which she has just emerged. On all sides is the enclosing thicket 
of spinous plants, broken only by the embouchures of three paths, 
their triple openings scarce perceptible from the middle of the 
glade. 

Near its centre she has pulled up, patting her horse upon the 
neck to keep him quiet. It is not much needed. The scaling 
of the " cuesta " has done that for him. He has no inclination 
either to go on, or tramp impatiently in his place. 

" I am before the hour of appointment," mutters she, drawing 
a gold watch from under her serape, " if, indeed, I should expect 
him at all. He may not come ? God grant that he be able 1 

" I am trembling ! Or is it the breathing of the horse ? 
Valffa me Dios, no ! *Tis my own poor nerves! 

" I never felt so before ! Is it fear ? I suppose it is. 

" 'Tis strange though — to fear the man I love — the only one I 
ever have loved : for it could not have been love I had for Don 
Miguel. A girl's fancy. Foi'tunate for me to have got cured of 
it ! Fortunate my discovering him to be a coward. That dis- 
enchanted me — quite dispelled the romantic dream in which he 
was the foremost figure. Thank my good stars, for the disenchant- 

men ; for now I hate bim, now that I hear he has grown Sail- 

tissima ! can it be true that he has become — a — a — ^alteador ? 

" And yet I should have no fear of meeting him — not even in 
this lone spot ! 

"-4y de mi ! Fearing the man I love, whom I believe to be of 
kind, noble nature — and ha\^gno dread of him I hate, and know 
to be cruel and remorseless ! 'Tis strange — incomprehensible ! 

" No — there is nothing strange in it. I tremble not from any 
thought of danger — only the danger of not being beloved. That 
is why I now shiver in my saddle — why I have not had one 
night of tranquil sleep since my deliverance from those drunken 
savages. 

" I have never told him of this ; nor do I know how he may 
receive the confession. It must, and shall be made. I can endure 
the uncertainty no longer. In preference I choose despair — 
death, if my hopes deceive me ! 

" Ha ! There is a hoof stroke ! A horse comes down the 
road ! It is his ? Yes. I see glancing through the trees the 
bright hues of our national costume. He delights to wear it. 
No wonder ; it so becomes him ! 

" Sania Virgin ! I*m under a serape, with a sombrero on my 
head. He'll mistake me for a man! Off, ye ugly disguises, 
and let me seem what I am — a woman." 

Scarce quicker could be the transformation in a pantomime. 
The casting off the serape reveals a form that Hebe might have 
envied ; the removal of the hat, a head tliat would have inspired 
the chisel of Canova ! 

A splendid picture is exhibited in that solitary glade ; worthy 



ISIDORA. 237 

of being framed, by its bordering of spinons trees, whose hirsute 
arms seem stretched out to protect it. 

A horse of symmetrical shape, half backed upon his haunches, 
with nostrils spread to the sky, and tail sweeping the ground ; 
on his back one whose aspect and attitude suggest a com- 
mingling of grand, though somewhat incongruous ideas, uniting 
to form a picture, statuesque as beautiful. 

The pose of the rider is perfect. Half sitting in the saddle, 
half standing upon the stirrup, every undulation of her form is 
displayed — the limbs just enough relaxed to show that she is a 
woman. 

NotwithstandiDg what she has said, on her face there is no fear 
— at least no sign to betray it. There is no quivering lip — no 
blanching of the cheeks. 

The expression is altogether different. It is a look of love — 
couched under a proud confidence, such as that with which the 
slie-eagle awaits the wooing of her mate. 

You may deem the picture overdrawn — perhaps pronounce it 
unfemininc. 

And yet it is a copy from real life — true as I can remember it ; 
and more than once had I the opportunity to fix it in my 
memory. 

The attitude is altered, and with the suddenness of a coup 
iV eclair ; the change being caused by recognition of the horse- 
man who comes galloping into the glade. The shine of the gold- 
laced vestments had misled her. They are worn not by Maurice 
Gerald, but by Miguel Diaz ! 

Bright looks become black. From her firm seat in the saddle 
she subsides into an attitude of listlessness — despairing rather 
than indifferent ; and the sound that escapes her lips, as for an 
instant they part over her pearl-like teeth, is less a sigh than 
an exclamation of chagrin. 

There is no sign of fear in the altered attitude — only dis- 
appointment, dashed with defiance. 

El Coyote speaks first. 

" H.^la ! S^norifa, who'd have expected to find your ladyship 
in this lonely place — wasting your sweetness on the thorny chap- 
paral?'' 

" In what way can it concern you, Don Miguel Diaz ? " 

"Absurd question, S'norita! You know it can, and does; 
and the reason why. You well know how madly I love you. 
Fool was I to confess it, and acknowledge myself your slave. 
'Twas that that cooled you so quickly.*' 

" You are mistaken, Senor. I never told you I loved you. K 
I did admire your feats of horsemanship, and said so, you had no 
nght to construe it as you've done. I meant no more than that 
I admired them — not you. 'Tis three years ago. I was a girl 
then, of an age when such things have a fascination for our sex — 
when we are foolish enough to be caught by personal accom- 



238 THE HEADLESS HOBSEBIAN. 

pliahments rather than moral attribntes. I am now a woman. 
All that is changed, as — it ought to be." 

" Carrai! ^Vhy did yon fill me with false' hopes? On the 
day of the herraderoy when I conqnered the fiercest bnll and 
tamed the wildest horse in yonr other's herds — a horse not one 
of his vaqueros dared so mnch as lay hands npon — on that day 
you smiled — aye, looked love npon me. You need not deny it, 
Dona Isidora ! I had experience, and conld read the expression 
— conld tell your thoughts, as they were then. They are changed, 
and why ? Because I was oonquered by your charms, or rather 
because I was the silly fool to acknowledge it ; and you, like all 
women, once you had won and knew it, no longer cared for your 
conquest. It is true, S'iiorita ; it is true." 

" It is not, Don Miguel Diaz. I never gave you word or sign 
to say that I loved, or thought of you otherwise than as an ac- 
complished cavalier. You appeared so then — ^perhaps were so. 
What are you now ? You know what's said of you, both here 
and on the Rio Grande ! " 

" I scorn to reply to calumny — whether it proceeds from fitlse 
friends or lying enemies. I have come here to seek explanations, 
not to give them." 

"From whom?" 

" From your sweet self. Dona Isidora." 

"You are presumptive, Don Miguel Diaz! Think, Senor, 
to whom you are addressing yourself. Remember, I am the 
daughter of " 

"One of the proudest haciendados in TamauHpas, and niece 
to one of the proudest in Texas. I have thought of all that ; 
and thought too that I was once a haciendado myself and 
am now only a hunter of horses. Can'amho ! what of that ? 
You're not the woman to despise a man for the inferiority of his 
rank. A poor mustanger stands as good a chance in your eyes 
as the owner of a hundred herds. In that respect, I have proof 
of your generous spirit ! " 

" What proof? " asked she, in a quick, entreating tone, and 
for the first time showing signs of uneasiness. " What evidence 
of the generosity you are so good as to ascribe to me ? " 

" This pretty epistle I hold in my hand, indited by the Dona 
Isidora Covarubio do los Llanos, to one who, like myself, is but a 
dealer in horseflesh. I need not submit it to very close inspec- 
tion. No doubt you can identify it at some distance ? " 

She could, and did; as was evinced by her starting in the saddle 
—by her look of angry surprise directed upon Diaz. 

" Senor ! how came you in possession of this ? " she asked, 
without any attempt to disguise her indignation. 
•• " It matters not. I am in possession of it, and of what for 
many a day I have been seeking ; a proof, not that you had 
ceased to care for me — for this I had good reason to know — but 
that you had begun to care for him. This tells that you love 



isiDOiu. 239 

him — ^words could not speak plainer. You long to look into his 
beautiful eyes. Mil demoniat ! jou shall never see them again ! *' 

" What means this, Don Miguel Diaz ? " 

Thc^questlon was put not without a slight qaivering of the 
voice that seemed to betray fear. No wonder it should. There 
was something in the aspect of El Coyote at that moment well 
calculated to inspire the sentiment. 

Observing it, he responded, " You may well show fear : you 
have reason. If I have lost you, my lady, no other shall enjoy 
you. I have made up my mind about that." 

"About what?" 

" What I have said — that no other shall call you his, and 
least of all Maurice the mustanger.'* 

" Indeed ! " 

" Ay, indeed ! Give me a promise that you and he shall 
never meet again, or you depart not from this place ! ** 

" You are jesting, Don Miguel ? ** 

" I am in earnest, Dona Isidora." 

The manner of the man too truly betrayed the sincerity of his 
speech. Coward as he was, there was a cold cruel determination 
in his looks, whilst his hand was seen stra}4ng towards 
the hilt of his machete. 

Despite her Amazonian courage, the woman could not help a 
feeling of uneasiness. She saw there was a danger, with but slight 
chance of averting it. Something of this she had felt from the 
first moment of the encounter ; but she had been sustained by 
the hope, that the unpleasant interview might be interrupted by 
one who would soon change its character. 

During the early part of the dialogue she had been eagerly 
listening for the sound of a horse's hoof — casting occasional and 
furtive glances through the chapparal, in the direction where she 
hoped to hear it. 

This hope was no more. The sight of her own letter told its 
tale : it had not reached its destination. 

Deprived of this hope — hitherto sustaining her — she next 
thought of retreating from the spot. 

But this too presented both difficulties and dangers. It 
was possible for her to wheel round and gallop off; but it was 
equally possible for her retreat to be intercepted by a bullet. 
The butt of El Coyote's pistol was as near to his hand as the 
hilt of his machete. 

She was fully aware of the danger. Almost any other woman 
would have given way to it. Not so Isidora Covarubio de los 
Llanos. She did not even show signs of being affected by it. 

"Nonsense! '* she exclaimed, answering his protestation with 
an air of well dissembled incredulity. " You are making sport 
of me, Senor. You wish to frighten me. Ha ! ha ! ha ! Why 
should I fear t/ou? I can ride as well — flingmylazoas sure 
and far as yf)ii. Look at this I sec how skilfully I can handle it ! " 



240 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

While 80 speaking — smiling as slie spoke — she had lifted the 
lazo from her saddle-bow and was winding it round her head, 
as if to illustrate her observations. 

The act had a very different intent, though it was not per- 
ceived by Diaz ; who, puzzled by her behaviour, sate speechless 
in his saddle. 

Not till he felt the noose closing around his elbows did he 
suspect her design ; and then too late to hinder its execution. 
In another instant his arms wei^e pinioned to his sides — both 
the butt of his pistol and the liilt of his machete beyond tlio 
grasp of his fingers ! 

He had not even time to attempt releasing himself from tho 
loop. Before he could lay hand upon the rope, it tightened 
around liis bod}'-, and with a violent pluck jerked him out of his 
saddle — throwing him stunned and senseless to tlie ground. 

'* Now, Don Miguel Diaz I " cried she who had caused this 
change of situation, and who was now seen upon her horse, ^vitli 
head turned homeward, the lazo strained taut from the saddle- 
tree. " Menace me no more ! Make no attempt to I'elease your- 
self. Stir but a finger, and I spur on ! Cruel A'illain ! coward 
as you are, you would have killed me — I saw it in your eye. 
Ha! the tables are turned, and now *' 

Percei\'ing that there was no rejoinder, she interrupted her 
speech, still keeping the lazo at a stretch, with her eyes fixed 
upon the fallen man. 

El Coyote lay upon the ground, his arms enlaced in the loop, 
without stirring, and silent as a stick of wood. The fall from 
liis lioi*se had deprived him of speech, and consciousness at the 
same time. To all appearance he was dead — his steed alone 
showing life by its loud neighing, as it reai*ed back among the 
bushes. 

"Holy Virgin! have I killed him?" she exclaimed, reining 
her hoi>5e sliglitly backward, though still keeping him headed 
away, and ready to spring to the spur. "Mother of God! 1 
did not intend it — though I should be justified in doing 
even that : for too surely did he intend to kill me ! Is he dead, 
or is it a ntse to get me near ? By our good Guadalupe ! I shall 
leave others to decide. There's not much fear of his overtalc- 
ing mo, before I can reach home ; and if he*s in any danger i\\Q 
people of the hacienda will get back soon enough to release him. 
Good day, Don !Miguel Diaz I Hasta hicgo ! '* 

With these words upon her lips — the levity of which pro- 
claimed her conscience clear of having committed a crime — 
she di-ew a small shaq>bladed knife from beneath the boddice of 
her dress; severed the rope short off from her saddle-bow; and, 
driving the spur deep into X\\c flanks of her horse, galloped oif 
out of the glade — leaving Diaz upon the ground, still encircled 
by the loop of the lazo ! 



24.1 



CHAPTER XLIX. 

THE LAZO UNLOOSED. 



All eagle, scared from its perch on a scathed cottonwoodi with 
a scream, soars upward into the air. 

Startled by the outbreak of angry passions, it has risen to re- 
connoitre. 

A single sweep of its majestic wing brings it above the glade. 
There, poised on tremulous pinions, with eye turned to earth, it 
scans both the open space and the chapparal that surrounds it. 
In the former it beholds that w^hich may, perhaps, be gratifying to 
its glance — a man thrown from his horse, that runs neighing 
around him — prostrate — apparently dead. In the Litter two sin- 
gular equestrians : one a woman, with bare head and chevelure 
spread to the breeze, astride a strong steed, going away from the 
glade in quick earnest gallop ; the other, also a woman, mounted 
on a spotted horse, in more feminine fashion, riding towards it ; 
attired in hat and habit, advancing at a slower pace, but with equal 
earnestness in her looks. 

Such is the coup d^ceil presented to the eye of the eagle. 

Of these fair equestrians both are already known. She gallop- 
ing away is Isidora Covarubio do los Llanos ; she who approaches, 
Louise Poindexter. 

It is known why the first has gone out of the glade. It remain 
to be told for what purpose the second is coming into it. 

After her interview with Zeb Stump, the young Creole re-entered 
her chamber, and kneeling before an image of the Madonna, sur- 
rendered her spirit to prayer. 

It is needless to say that, as a Creole, she was a Catholic, and 
therefore a firm believer in the efficacy of saintly intercession. 
Strange and sad was the theme of her supplication — ^the man who 
had bSen marked as the murderer of her brother ! 

She had not the slightest idea that he was guilty of the horrid 
crime. It could not ])0. The very suspicion of it would have lacer- 
ated her heart. 

Her prayer was not for pardon, but protection. She supplicated 
the Virgin to save him from his enemies — her own friends ! 

Tears and choking sobs were mingled with her words, low mur- 
mured ill llu' ear of JleavcMi. She had loved her brother with the 
fondest sisterly aflection. She sorrowed sorely ; but her sorrow could 
not stille that other aflfeetion, stronger tlian the ties of blood. 
"While mourning her brother's loss she prayed for her lover's safety. 

As she rose from her knees her eye fell upon the bow — that im- 
])lenient so cunningly employed to despatch sweet messages to the 
man she loveil. 



242 THE UEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

" Oh ! that I could send one of its arrows to warn him of his 
danger ! I may never use it again !" 

The reflection was followed by a thought of cognate character. 
Might there not remain some trace of that clandestine correspon- 
dence in the place where it had been carried on ? 

She remembered that Maurice swam the stream, instead of re- 
crossing in the skifl", to be drawn back again by her own lazo. His 
most have been left in the boat ! 

On the day before, in the confusion of her grief, she had not 
thought of this. It might become evidence of their midnight 
meeting ; of which, as she supposed, no tongue but theirs — and 
that for ever silent — could tell the tale. 

The sun was now fairly up, and gleaming garishly through the 
glass. She threw open the casement and stepped out, with the 
design of proceeding towards the skiff. In the halcon her steps 
were arrested, on hearing voices above. 

: Two persons were conversing. They were her maid Florinde, 
and the sable groom, who, in the absence of liis master, was taking 
the air of the azotea. 

Their words could be heard below, though their young mistress 
did not intentionally listen to them. It was only on their pro- 
nouncing a name, that she permitted their patois to make an im- 
pression upon her ear. 

" Dey calls do young fella Jerrad. Mors Jerrad am de name. 
Dey do say he Irish, but if folks 'peak de troof, he an't bit like deni 
Irish dat works on de Lebee at New Orlean. Ho, ho ! He more 
like bos gen*lum planter. Dat's what he like." 

" You don't tink, Pluto, he been gone kill Massa Henry ?" 
" I doan't tink nuflin ob de kind. Ho, ho ! He kill Massa 
Henry ! no more dan dis chile hab done dat same. Goramity — 
Goramity! 'Peak ob de debbil and he dar — de berrj' individible 
we talkin' 'bout. Ho, ho ! look Florinde ; look vonner !'' 
■''Whar?" 

" Dar — out dar, on todder side ob de ribba. You see man on 
horseback. Dat's Mors Jerrad, de berry man we meet on de 
brack praira. De same dat gub Missa Loo de 'potted boss ; de same 
dey've all gone to sarch for. Ho, ho ! Dey gone dey wrong 
way. Dey no find him out on dem prairas dis day." 

" O, Pluto ! an't you glad ? I'm sure he innocent — dat brave 

bewful young gen'lum. He nebba could been de man 

The listener below stayed to hear no more. Gliding back into 
her chamber she made her way towards the azotea. The beating 
of her heart was almost as loud as the fall of her footsteps while 
ascending the escalera. It was with difficulty she could conceal her 
emotion from the two individuals whose conversation had caused it. 
"What have you seen, that you talk so loudly?" said she, 
trying to hide her agitation under a pretended air of severity. 
" Ho, ho ! Missa Looey — look ober dar. De young fella !" 
"What young fellow?" 



THE LAZO UNLOOSED. 248 

" Hini as dey be gone sarch for — ^him dat— " 

*• I see no one." 

" Ho, ho ! Ho jess gone in 'mong de tree. See yonner-— 
yonner ! You see de black glaze hat, de shinin' jacket ob velvet, 
an de glancin' silver buttons — dat'a him. I sarnn sure dat's de 
same young fella." 

** You may be mistaken for all that, Master Pluto. There arc 
many here who dress in that fashion. The distance is too great 
for you to distinguish ; and now that he's almost out of sight 
Never mind, Florinde. Hasten below — get out my hat and habit. 
I'm going out for a ride. You, Pluto! have the saddle on Luua 
in the shortest time. I must not let the sun get too high. Haste, 
liasto !" 

As the servants disappeared down the stairway, she turned once 
more towards the parapet, her bosom heaving under the revulsion of 
thoughts. "Unobserved she could now freely scan the prairie and 
chapparal. 

She was too late. The horseman had ridden entirely out of 
sight. 

** It was very like him, and yet it was not ? It can scarce be 
possible ? If it be he, why should he be going that way ?*' 

A new pang passed through her bossom. She remembered once 
before having asked herself the same question. 

She no longer stayed upon the azotea to watch the road. In 
ten minutes' time she was across the river, entering the chapparal 
where the horseman had disappeared. 

She rode rapidly on, scanning the causeway far in the advance. 

Suddenly she reined up, on nearing the crest of the hill that 
overlooked the Leona. The act was consequent on the hearing 
of voices. 

She listened. Though still distant, and but faintly heard, the 
voices could be distinguished as those of a man and woman. 

What man ? What woman ? Another pang passed through 
her heart at these put questions. 

She rode nearer ; again halted ; again listened. 

The conversation was carried on in Spanish. There was no 
ri'lief to her in this. Maurice Gerald would have talked in that 
tongue to Isidora Covarubio de los Llanos. The Creole was ac- 
(fuainted with it sufficiently to have understood what was said, had 
she been near enough to distinguish the words. The tone was 
animated on both sides, as if both speakers were in a passion. 
Tlie listener was scarce displeased at this. 

She rod<* nearer ; once more pulled up ; and ,once more sate 
listening. 

The man's voice was heard no longer. The woman's sounded 
• lear and firm, as if in menace ! 

There was an interval of silence, succeeded by a quick trampling 
nf horses — another pause — another speech on the part of the 
woman, at first loud like a threat, and then subdued as in a 

M 2 



214 THE HEADLESS HOBSEXAN. 

soliloquy — then another interral of silence, again broken by the 
sound of hoofs, as if a single horse was galloping away from the 
ground. 

Only this, and the scream of an eagle, that, startled by the 
angry tones, had swooj>cd aloft, and was now soaring above the 
glade. 

The listener knew of the opening — to her a hallowed spot. The 
voices had come out of it. She had made her last halt a little 
way from its edge. She had been restrained from advancing by 
a fear — the fear of fmding out a bitter truth. 

Her indecision ending, she spurred on into the glade. 

A horse saddled and bridled rushing to and fro — a man prostrate 
upon the ground, with a lazo looped around his arms, to all appear- 
ance dead — a iombrero and serapi lying near, evidently not the 
man's ! AMiat could l>e the interpretation of such a tableau ? 

The man was dressed in the rich costume of the Mexican 
ranehero — the horse also caparisoned in this elaborate and costly 
fashion. 

At sight of l)otli, tlie lieart of the Louisianian leaped with joy. 
Whether dead or living, tlie man was the same she had seen from 
the azotea; and he was not ^lauricc Gerald. 

She had doubted before — had hoped tliat it was not he ; and her 
hopes were now sweetly confirmed. 

She drew near and examined the profitrate form. She scanned 
the face, whicli Avas turned uj) — the man lying upon his back. She 
fancied she had seen it before, but was not certain. 

It was plain that ho was a Mexican. Not only his dress but his 
oountenancc — every line of it betrayed the Spanish- American 
physiognomy. 

He was far from being ill-featured. On the contrary', he might 
have been pronounced handsome. 

It was not this that induced Louise Poindexter to leap down 
from her saddle, and stoiij) over him with a kind pitying look. 

The joy caused by his presence — by the discovery that he was 
not somebody else — found gratification in performing an act of 
humanity. 

" He docs not seem dead ? Surely he is breathing P' 

The cord aj)peared to hinder his resi)iration. 

It was looseneil on the instant — the noose giving way to a 
woman's strength. 

" Now, he can breathe more freely. Pardieu ! what can have 
caused it ? Lazzoed in his saddle anddragged to the earth ? That 
is most probable. I^ut who could have done it ? It was a woman's 
voice. Surely it was ? I could not be mistaken about that. 

" And yet there is a man's hat, and a serapiy not this man's ! 
Was there another, who has gone away with the woman ? Only 
one horse went off? 

**Ah! ho is coming to himself! thank Heaven for that ! Ho 
will be able to explain all. You are recovering, sir ?" 



Tun LAZO UNLOOSED. 2^5 

''Snorita! who arc you?" asked Don Miguel Diaz, raising his 
head, and looking apprehensively around. 

" Where is she ?" he continued. 

" Of whom do you speak ?* I have seen no one but yourself." 

" Carrambo ! that's queer. Haven't you met a woman astride 
a grey horse ?" 

** I heard a woman's voice, as I rode up." 

" Say rather a she-devil's voice : for that, sure, is Isidora 
Covarubio de los Llanos. 

" Was it she who has done tliis ?" 

" Maldito, yes ! Where is she now ? Tell me that, s'norita." 

" I cannot. By the sound of the hoofs I fancy she has gone 
down the hill. She must have done so, as I came the other way 
myself." i 

" Ah — gone down the hill — home, then, to . You've been 

very kind, s'norita, in loosening this lazo — as I make no doubt you've 
done. Perhaps you will still further assist me by helping me into 
the saddle? Once in it, I think I can stay there. At all events, I 
must not stay here. I have enemies, not far off. Come, Carlito !" 
he cried to his horse, at the same time summoning the animal 
by a peculiar whistle. " Come near ! Don't be frightened at the 
l)resence of this fair lady. She's not the same that parted you and 
me so rudely — en verdady almost for ever! Come on, eavaXlo! 
come on !" 

The horse, on hearing the whistle, came trotting up, and per- 
mitted his master — now upon his feet — to lay hold of the bridle-rein. 

" A little help from you, kind s'norita, and I think I can climb 
into my saddle. Once there, I shall be safe from their pursuit." 

" You expect to be pursued?" 

" Quien sahe ? I have enemies, as I told you. Never mind 
that. I feel very feeble. You will not refuse to help me ?" 

" Wliy should I ? You are welcome, sir, to any assistance I 
can give you." 

Mil gracia8, s'norita ! Mil, mil graciasT^ 

The Creole, exerting all her strength, succeeded in helping the 
disabled horseman into his saddle ; where, after some balancing, he 
api^eared to obtain a tolerably firm seat. 

Gathering up his reins, he prepared to depart. 

" Adios, s'iiorita !" said he, " I know not who you are. I see 
yon are not one of our people. Americano, I take it. Never mind 
that. You are good as you are fair ; and if ever it should chance 
to be in his power, Miguel Diaz will not be unmindful of the ser- 
vice you have this day done him." 

Saying this El Coyote rode off, not rapidly, but in a slow walk, 
as if he felt some difficulty in preserving his equilibrium. 

Notwithstanding the slowness of the pace — he was soon out of 
sight, — the trees screening him as he passed the glade. 

He went not by any of the three roads, but by a narrow track, 
scarce disccmil)le where it entered the underwood. 



246 TU£ HEADLESS H0B8£HA>'. 

To the young Creole the wliole thing appeared like a dream — 
strange, i-ather than disagreeable. 

It was changed to a frightful reality, when, after picking up a 
sheet of paper left by Diaz where he had been lying, she read what 
was written upon it. The address was " Don Mauricio Grerald ;" 
the signature, " Isidora Covarubio de los Llanos/' 

To regain her saddle Louise Poindexter was almost as much in 
need of a helping hand, as the man who had ridden away. 

As she forded the Lcoua, in returning to Casa del Corvo, she 
halted her horse in the middle of the stream; and for some time 
sate gazing into the flood that foamed up to her stirrup. There was 
a wild expression upon her features that betokened deep despair. 
One degree deeper, and tlie waters would have covered as fair a 
fonD; as was ever sacrificed to their Spirit ! 



CHAPTER L. 

A CONFLICT WITH COYOTES. 



The purple shadows of a Texan twilight were descending upon 
the earth, when the wounded man, whose toilsome journey through 
the chapparal has been recorded, arrived upon the banks of the 
streamlet. 

Aftier quenching his thirst to a surfeit, he stretched himself 
along the grass, his thoughts relieved from the terrible strain so 
long and continuously actinoj upon them. 

His limb for the time pained him but little; and his spirit 
was too much worn to be keenly apprehensive as to the future. 

He only desired repose; and the cool evening breeze, sighing 
through the feathery fronds of the acacia.s, favoured his chances of 
obtaining it. 

The vultures had dispersed to their roosts in the thicket ; and, 
no longer disturbed by their boding presence, he soon aft<?r fell 
asleep. 

His slumber was of short continuance. The pain of his wounds, 
once more returning, awoke him. 

It was this — and not the cry of the coyote — that kept him from 
sleeping throughout the remainder of the night. 

Little did he regard the sneaking wolf of the prairies — a true 
jackal — ^that attacks but the dead ; the living, only when dying. 

He did not believe that he was dying. 

It was a long dismal night t-o the sufferer; it seemed as if day 
would never dawn. 

The light came at length, but revealed nothing to cheer him. 
Along with it came the birds, and the beasts went not away. 

Over him, in the shine of another sun, the vultures once 



A CONFLICT WITH COYOnUU 247 

more extended their Hhado\vy wings. Around him he heard the 
howl-bark of the coyote, in a hundred hideous repetitions. 

Crawling down to the stream, he once more quenched his thirst. 

He now hungered; and looked round for something to eat. 

A pecan tree stood near. There were nuts upon its branches, 
within six feet of the ground. 

He was able to reach the pecan upon his hands and knees; 
though the effort caused agony. 

With his crutch he succeeded in detaching some of the nuts; and 
on these broke his fast. 

What was the next step to be taken ? 

To stir away from the spot was simply impossible. The slightest 
movement gave him ])ain ; at the same time assuring him of his 
utter inability to go anywhere. 

He was still uncertam as to the nature of the injuries he had 
sustained — more especially that in his leg, which was so swollen 
that he could not well examine it. He supposed it to be either a 
fracture of the knee-cap, or a dislocation of the joint. In either 
case, it might be days before he could use the limb; and what, 
meanwhile, was he to do ? 

He had but little expectation of any one coming that way. Ho 
had shouted himself hoarse; and though, at intervals, he still con- 
tinued to send forth a feeble cry, it was but the intermittent effort 
of hope stniggling against despair. 

There was no alternative but stay where he was ; and, satisfied 
of this, he stretched himself along the sward, with the resolve to 
be -as patient as possible. 

It required all the stoicism of his nature to boar up against the 
acute agony he was enduring. Nor did he endure it altogether in 
silence. At intervals it elicited a groan. 

Engrossed by his sufferings, he was for a while unconscious of 
what was going on around him. Still above him wheeled the 
black birds ; but he had become accustomed to their presence, 
and no longer regarded it — not even when, at intervals, some of 
them swooped so near, that he could hear the " wheep*' of their 
wings close to his ears. 

Ha ! what was that — that sound of different import ? 

It resembled the pattering of little feet upon the sandy channel 
«)f the stream, accompanied by quick breathings, as of animals in 
51 state of excitement. 

He looked around for an explanation. 

"Only the coyotes!" was his reflection, on seeing a score of 
tliese animals flitting to and fro, skulking along both banks of the 
stream, and "squatting" upon the grass. 

Hitherto he had felt no fear — only contempt — for these cowardly 
creatures. 

But his sentiments underwent a change, on his noticing their 
looks and attitudes. The former were fierce ; the latter earnest 
and threatening. Clearly did the coyotes mean mischief! 



2'18 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

He now remembered having heard, that these animals, — ordi- 
narily innocuous, from sheer cowardice — will attack man when 
disabled beyond the capability of defending himself. Especially 
will they do so when stimulat^id by the smell of blood. 

His had flowed freely, and from many veins — punctured by the 
spines of the cactus. His garments were saturated with it, still 
but half dry. 

On the sultry atmosphere it was sending forth its peculiar 
odour. The coyotes could not help scenting it. 

Was it tliis that was stirring them to such excited action — 
apparently making them mad? 

Whether or not, he no longer doubted that it was their inten- 
tion to attack him. 

He had no weapon but a bowie knife, which fortunately had 
kept its place in his belt. His rifle and pistols, attached to the 
saddle, had been carried off* by his horse. 

Ho drew the knife ; and, resting upon his right knee, prepared 
to defend himself. 

He did not perform the action a second too soon. Emboldened 
by having been so long lofb to make their menaces unmolested 
— excited to courage by the smell of blood, stronger as they 
drew nearer — stimulated by their fierce natural appetites — ^tlic 
wolves had by this time reached the turning point of their de- 
termination : which was, to spring foni'ard upon the wounded 
man. 

They did so — half a dozen of them simultaneously — fastening 
their teeth upon his arms, limbs, and body, as they made their 
impetuous oubct. 

With a vigorous effort he shook them off*, striking out with 
his knife. One or two were gashed by the shining blade, and 
went howling away. But a fresh band had by this time entered 
into the fray, others coming up, till the assailants counted a score. 

The conflict became desperate, deadly. Several of the animals 
were slain. But the fate of their fallen comrades did not deter 
the survivors from continuing the strife. On the contrary, it but 
maddened them the more. 

The struggle became more and more confused — the coyotes 
crowding over one another to lay hold of their victim. The knif« 
was wielded at random ; the arm wielding it every moment be- 
coming weaker, and striking with less fatal effect. 

The disabled man was soon further disabled. 

He felt fear for his life. No wonder — death was staring him in 
the face. 

At this crisis a crj'- escaped his li])s. Strange it was not one of 
terror, but joy ! And stranger still that, on hearing it, the coyot<?s 
for an instant desisted from their attack ! 

There was a suspension of the strife — a short interval of 
silence. It was not the crj^ of their victim that had caused it, 
but that which h«ad elicited the exclamation. 



A CONFLICT WTSn COYOTES. 249 

There was the sound of a horse's hoofs going at a gallop, 
followed by the loud baying of a hound. 

The wounded man continued to exclaim, — in shouts calling 
for help. The horse appeared to be close by. A man upon his 
back could not fail to hear them. 

But there was no response. The horse, or horseman, had 
passed on. 

The hoof-strokes became less distinct. Despair once more 
returned to the antagonist of the coyotes. 

At the same time his skulking assailants felt a renewal of their 
courage, and hastened to renew the conflict. 

Once more it conmienced, and was soon raging fiercely as before 
— the ^Tctched man believing himself doomed, and only continuing 
the strife through sheer desperation. 

Once more was it interrupted, this time by an intruder whose 
presence inspired him with fresh courage and hope. 

If the horseman had proved indifferent to his calls for help, not 
90 the hound. A grand creature of the staghound species — of its 
rarest and finest breed — ^was seen approaching the spot, uttering 
a deep sonorous bay, as with impetuous bound it broke through 
the bushes. 

" A friend ! thank Heaven , a friend .'" 

The baying ceased, as the hound cleared the selvage of the 
chapparal, and rushed open-mouthed among the cowed coyotes— 
already retreating at his approach ! 

One was instantly seized between the huge jaws ; jerked upward 
from the earth ; shaken as if it had been only a rat ; and let go 
again, to writhe over the ground with a shattered spine ! 

Another was served in a similar manner ; but ore a third could 
be attacked, the terrified survivors dropped their tails to the 
sward, and went yelping away ; one and all retreating whence they 
had come — into the silent solitudes of the chapparal. 

The rescued man saw no more. His strengtli was completely 
spent. He had just enough left to stretch forth his arms, and with 
a smile close them around the neck of his deliverer. Then, mur- 
muring some soft words, he fainted gradually awav. 

His syncope was soon over, and consciousness once more assumed 
sway. 

Supporting himself on his elbow, he looked inquiringly 
around. 

It was a strange, sanguinary spectacle that met his eyes. 
But for his swoon, he would have seen a still stranger one. During 
its continuance a horseman liad ridden into the glade, and gone out 
again. He was the same whose hoofstroke liad been heard, and who 
had lent a deaf ear to the cries for help. He had arrived too late, 
and then without any idea of ofi*ering assistance. His design ap- 
peared to bo the watering of his horse. 

The animal ])liinjj^rd straight into the streamlet, drank to its 



260 THE HEADLESS HOBSEXAN. 

satisfaction, elimbed out on the opposite bank, trotted across the 
open ground, and disappeared in the thicket beyond. 

The rider had taken no notice of the prostrate form ; the horse 
only by snorting, as he saw it, and springing from side to side, as 
he troa amidst the carcases of the coyotes. 

The horse was a magnificent animal, not large, but perfect in all 
hisparts. The man was the xcry reverse — ^having no nead ! 

Tnere was a head, but not in its proper place. It rested against 
the holster, seemingly held in the rider's hand ! 

A fearful apparition. 

The dog barked, as it passed throuffh the glade, and followed it 
to ^e edge of the underwood. He had been with it for a long 
time, straying where it strayed, and going where it went. 

He now desisted from this fruitless fellowship ; and, returning 
to the sleeper, lay do\vn by his side. 

It was then that the latter was restored to consciousness, and 
remembered what had made him for the moment oblivious. 

After caressing the dog he again sank into a prostrate position ; 
and, drawing the skirt of the cloak over his face to shade it from 
theglare of the sun, he fell asleep. 

The staghound lay do^vii at his feet, and also slumbered ; but 
only in short spells. At interv^als it raised its head, and uttered 
an angrj-^ growl, as the wings of the vultures came switching too 
close to its ears. 

The young man muttered in his sleep. They were wild words 
that came from his unconscious lips, and betokened a strange 
commingling of thoughts : now i)assionate appeals of love — now 
disjointed speeches, that ix)inted to the committal of murder ! 



CHAPTER XXXVTT. 



TWICE INTOXICATKI). 



OuB story takes us back to the lone hut on the Alamo, so sud- 
denly forsaken by the gambling guests, who had made themselves 
welcome in the absence of its owner. 

It is near noon of the following day, and he has not yet come 
home. The cUdevarU stable-boy of Bally-ballagh is once more sole 
occupant of the jacali — once more stretched along the floor, in a 
state of inebriety ; though not the same from which we have seen 
him already aroused. He has been sober since, and the spell now 
upon him has been produced by a subsequent appeal to the 
Divinity of drink. 

To explain, we must go back to that hour between midnight and 
morning, when the mont^ players made their abnipt departure. 



A CONFLICT WITH COYOTBS. 2S1 

The sight of three red savages, seated around the slab table, and 
industriously engaged in a game of cards, had done more to re- 
store Phelim to a state of sobriety than sJl the sleep he had ob- 
tained. 

Despite a certain grotesqueness in the spectacle, he had not seen 
it in a ludicrous light, as was proved by the terrific screech with 
which he saluted them. 

There was nothing laughable in what followed. He had no 
very clear comprehension of what did £ol\ow. He only remembered 
that the trio of painted warriors suddenly gave up their game, 
flung their cards upon the floor, stood over him for a time with 
naked blades, threatening his life ; and then, along with a fourth 
who had joined them, turned their backs abruptly, and rushed pell- 
mell out of the place ! 

All this occupied scarce twenty seconds of time ; and when he 
had recovered from his terrified surprise, he found himself once more 
alone in the jacale ! 

Was he sleeping, or awake ? Drunk, or dreaming P Was the • 
scene real ? Or was it another chapter of incongruous impossi- 
bilities, like that still fresh before his mind ? 

But no. The thing was no fancy. It could not be. He had 
seen the savages too near to be mistaken as to their reality. He 
had heard them talking in a tongue unknown to him. What 
could it be but Indian jargon ? Besides, there were the pieces of 
pasteboard strewn over the floor ! 

He did not think of picking one up to satisfy himself of iheir 
reality. He was sober enough, but not sufiiciently courageous for 
that. He could not be sure of their not burning his fingers— 
those queer cards ? They nii^ht belong to the devU ? 

Despite the conftision of his senses, it occurred to him that the 
hut was no longer a safe place to stay in. The painted players 
might return to tini«h their game. Tliey had left behind not only 
their cards, but everything else iha jacale contained; and though 
some powerful motive seemed to have caused their abrupt departure, 
they might re-appear with equal abruptness. 

The thought prompted the Galwegian to immediate action ; and, 
blowing out the candle, so as to conceal his movements, he stole 
softly out of the hut. 

He did not go by the door. The moon was shining on the grass 
plat in front. The savages might still be there ? 

He found means of exit at the back, by pulling one of the 
horse hi<les from its place, and squeezing himself through the 
stockade wall. 

Once outside, lie skulked off under the shadow of the trees. 

He had not gone far when a clump of dark objects appeared 
before him. There was a sound, as of horses champing their 
bitts, and the occasional striking of a hoof. He paused in his 
steps, screening his body behind the trunk of a cypress. 

A short obser\'ation convinced him, that what he saw was a 



252 THE HSADLB8S HOBSEMAX. 

grcmp of horses. There appeared to be four of them ; no doubt 
belonging to the four warriors, who had turned the mustanger's 
hut into a gaming-house. The animals appeared to be tied to a 
tree, but for all that, their owners might be beside them. 

Having made this reflection, he was about to turn back and 
go the other way ; but just at that moment he heard voices in 
the opposite direction — the voices of several men speaking in tones 
of menace and command. 

Then came short, quick cries of affright, followed by the baying 
of a hound, and succeeded by silence, at intervals interrupted by a 
swishing noise, or the snapping of a branch — as if several men were 
retreating through the underwood in scared confusion ! 

As he continued to listen, the noises sounded nearer. The men 
who made them were advancing towards the cypress tree. 

The tree was furnished with buttresses all around its base, 
with shadowy intervals between. Into one of these he stepped 
hastily; and, crouching close, was completely screened by the 
shadow. 

He had scarce effected his concealment, when four men came 
rushing up ; and, without stopping, hastened on towards the 
horses. 

As they passed by him, they were exchanging speeches which 
the Irishman could not understand ; but their tone betrayed 
terror. The excited action of the men confirmed it. They were 
evidently retreating from some enemy that had filled them with fear. 
There was a glade whore the moon-beams fell upon the grass. 
It was just outside the shadow of tlie cypress. To reach the horses 
they had to cross it ; and, as they did so, the vermilion upon 
their naked skins Hashed red under the moonlight. 

Phelim identified the four gentlemen wlio liad made so free 
with the liospitality of the hut. 

He kept his place till they had mounted, and rode off — ^till he 
could tell by the tramp of their horses tliat they had ascended the 
upper plain, and gone off in a gallop — as men who were not 
likely to come back again. 

" boesn't that bate JJanagher r" muttered he, stepping out 
from his hiding })laee, and throwing up his arms in astonish- 
ment. " Be japers ! it diz. Mother av Moses ! fwhat cyan it 
mane anyhow ? What are them divvils afther ? An fwhat's 
afther them ? Shure scmiethin' has given them a scarr — that's 
plain as a i)ikestaff. I wondher now if it's been that same. Be 
me sowl it's jist it theyve cncounthered. I heerd the hound gowlin, 
an didn't he go afllier it. O Lard ! what cyan it be ? May be 
it'll be comin' this way in purshoot av them ?" 

The dread of again beholding the unexplained apparition, or 
being beheld by it, caused him to shrink once more under the 
shadow of the tree ; where he remained for some time longer in a 
state of trembling suspense. 

" AflhiM* all, it must be some thriek av Masihor Maurice ? 



TWIOE INTOXICATED. 258 

Maybe to give me a scarr ; an comin' back be's jist been in time to 
frighten off these ridskins that intinded to nib 'an' beloike to 
murthor us too. Sowl ! I hope it is that. How long since I saw 
it first ? Trath ! it must be some considerable time. I remimber 
having four full naggins, an' that's all gone off. I wondher now if 
them Indyins has come acrass av the dimmyjan ? I've heerd that 
they're as fond of the crayther as if their skins was white. Sowl ! 
if they've smelt the jar there won't be a dhrap in it by this time* 
I'll jist slip back to the hut an' see. If thare's any danger now it 
won't be from them. By that tarin' gallop, I cyan tell they've gone 
for good." 

Once more emerging from the shadowy stall, he made his way 
back towards iliejacale. 

He approached it with caution, stopping at intervals to assure 
himself that no one was near. 

Notwithstanding the plausible hypothesis he had shaped out 
for himself, he was still m dread of another encounter with the 
headless horseman — who twice on his way to the hut might now 
be inside of it. 

But for the hope of finding a " dhrap " in the demijohn, he would 
not have ventured back that night. As it was, the desire to obtain 
a drink was a trifle stronger than his fears ; and yielding to it, he 
stepped doubtfully into the darkness. 

He made no attempt to rekindle the light. Every inch of the 
floor was familiar to him; and especially that corner where he 
expected to find the demijohn. 

He tried for it. An exclamation uttered in a tone of disap- 
pointment told that it was not there. 

" Be dad !" muttered he, as he grumblingly groped about ; " it 
looks as if they'd been at it. Av coorse they hav, else fwhy is it 
not in its place ? I lift it thare — shure I lift it thare." 

" Ach, me jewel ! an' it's thare yez are yet," he continued, as Ids 
hand came in contact with the wickerwork ; " an' bad luck to their 
imperence — impty as an eggsliill ! Ach ! ye greedy gutted 
bastes ! If I'd a known yez were goin' to do that, I'd av 
slipped a thrifle av shumach juice into the jar, an' made raal fire- 
water av it for ye — jist fwhat yez wants. Divil burn ye for a set av 
rid-skinned thieves, stalin' a man's liquor when he's aslape ! Och- 
an-anee! fwhat am I to do now ? Go to slape agane ? I don't belavo 
I cyan, thinkin' av them an' the tother, widout a thrifle av the 

crayther to comfort me. An' thare isn't a dhrap widin twenty 

Fwhat — fwhat ! Howly Mary ! Mother av Moses ! Sant Pathrick and 
all the others to boot, fwhat am I talkin' about ? The pewther 
fla.'ik — the pewther flask ! Be japers ! it's in the thrunk — full to 
the very neck ! Didn't I fill it for Masther Maurice to take wid 
him the last time he went to the sittlements ? And didn't he 
forget to take it ? Lard have mercy on me ! If the Indyins liave 
laid their dhirty claws upon tJiot I shall be afther takin' lave av 
mo sinses." 



254 THE HEADLXB8 H0E8EMAN. 

" Hoo — ^hoop — ^hoorro !" he cried, after an interval of silence, 
during which he could be heard fumbling among the contenta of 
the portmanteau. " Hoo— hoop — ^hoorro ! thanks to the Lard for 
all his mercies. The rid-skins haven't been cunnin' enough to look 
thare. The flask as full as a tick — not wan av them has had a 
finger on it. Hoo — hoop — hoorro !" 

For some seconds the discoverer of the spirituous treasure, giving 
way to a joyous excitement, could be hoard in the darkness, dancing 
over the iioor of Xhojacale, 

Tlien there was an inter\'al of silence, succeeded by the screw- 
ing of a stopper, and after that a succession of " glucks," that 
proclaimed the rapid emj)tying of a narrow-necked vessel. 

After a time tliis sound was suspended, to be replaced by a 
repeated smacking ol* lips, interlarded with grotesque ejacula- 
tions. 

Again came tlio gluck-gluck, again the smackings, and so on 
alternately, till an empty flask was lieard falling upon the floor. 

After that there were wild shouts — scraps of song interminsled 
with cheers and laughter — incoherent ravings about red Indians 
and headless horsemen, repeated over and over again, each time in 
more subdued tones, till tlie maudlin gibberish at length ended in a 
loud continuous snorinj? ! 



CHAPTER LII. 

AX AW.VKEXER. 

Phkltm's second shnnber was destined to endure for a more pro- 
tracted term than liis lirst. It was nearly noon when he awoke 
from it; and then only on receiving a bucket of cold water full in 
his face, that sobered him almost as quickly as the sight of the 
savjiges. 

It was Zel) Stump who administered the doucfie. 

After ])arting from the j)recincts of Casa del Con'O, the old 
hunter liad taken the road, or rather traH, which lie knew to be the 
most direct one leading to the head waters of the Nueces. 

Without staying to notice tracks or other " sign," he rode 
straight across the prairie, and intt) the avenue already mentioned. 

From what Louise Poindexter had told him — from a knowledge 
of th(* people who e()ni])osed the party of searchers — he knew that 
Maurice (Jerald was in danger. 

Hence his haste to reach the Alamo before them — coupled 
with caution to keej) out of* their way. 

He knew that if he came u]) with the Regulators, equivocation 
would be a dangerous game; and, 7io!fns vdeiis, he should be com- 
])elled to guide them to the dwelling of the suspected murderer. 

On turninuf the angle nl' th(» avenue, he had the chagrin to see 



AN AWAKEMXB. S55 

the searcliers directly before him, clumped up in a crowd, and 
apparently engaged in the examination of " sign." 

At the same time he had the satisfaction to know that hit 
caution was rewarded, by himself remaining unseen. 

" Dum them!" he muttered, with bitter emphasis. "I moat 
a know'd they'd a bin hyur. I must go back an' roun* the 
tether way. It'll deelay me bettcr'n a hour. Come, ole maar ! 
This air an obstruckshun yoii, won't like. It'll gi'e ye the edition 
o' six more mile to vur journey. Ee-up, ole gal ! Roun' an' back 
we go!" 

With a strong pull upon the rein, he brought the mare short 
round, and rode back towards the embouchure of the avenue. 

Once outside, he turned along the edge of the chapparal, again 
entering it by the path which on the day before had been tiJcen 
by Diaz and his trio of confederates. From this point he pro- 
(?eeded without pause or adventure until he had descended to the 
Alamo bottom-land, and arrived within a short distance, though 
still out of sight of the mustanger's dwelling. 

Instead of riding boldly up to it, he dismounted from his mare ; 
and leaving her behind him, approached the ^'oco^ with his cus- 
tomary caution. 

The horse-hide door was closed ; but there was a large aperture 
in the middle of it, where a portion of the skin had been cut out. 
What was the meaning of that ? 

Zeb could not answer the question, even by conjecture. 

It increased his caution ; and he continued his approach with as 
much stealth, as if he ha<l been stalking an antelope. 

He kept round by the rear — so as to avail liimself of the cover 
afforded by the trees; and at length, having crouched into the horse- 
nhed at the back, he knelt down and listened. 

Tliere was an opening before his eyes ; where one of the split 
posts had been pushed out of place, and the skin tapestry torn off. 
He saw this with some surprise; but, before he could shape any 
conjecture as to its cause, his ears were saluted with a sonorous 
breathing, that came out through the aperture. There was also a 
snore, which he fancied he could recognize, as proceeding from 
Irish nostrils. 

A glance through the opening settled the point. The sleeper was 
Phelim. 

There was an end to the necessity for stealthy manoeuvring. 
The hunter rose to his feet, and stepping round to the front, 
entered by the door — which he found unbolted. 

He made no attempt to rouse the sleeper, until after he had 
tjiken stock of the paraphernalia upon the floor. 

** Thur*s been packin' up for some purpiss," he observed, after a 
cursory glance. " Ah ! Now I reccollex. The young fellur sayed 
he war goin' to make a move from hvur some o' these days. Thet 
ere anymal air not only soun' asleep, but dead drunk. Sartin he air 
— drunk as liackis. \ kin tell that l>v the smell o' him. I wonder 



266 THE HEADLESS H0B8EMAN. 

if he hev left any o' the licker ? It air dewhious. Not a drop, 
dog-gone him ! Thur's the jar, wi' the stop plug out o' it, lyin' 
on its side; an' thur's the flask, too, in the same preedikamint — 
both on 'em full o' empiness. Dum him for a drunken cuss! He 
kin suck up as much moister as a chalk purayra. 

" Spanish curds ! A hul pack on 'em scattered abeout the place. 
What kin he ha' been doin' ^vi' them ? S'pose he's been havin' a 
game o' sollatury along wi' his licker." 

" But what's cut the hole in the door, an' why's the tother 
broken out at the back ? ■ I reckon he kin tell. I'll roust him, 
an' see. Pheelum ! Pheelum !" 

Phelim made no reply. 

« Pheelum, I say ! Pheelum !" 

Still no reply. Although the last summons was delivered in a 
shout loud enough to have been heard half a mile off, there was 
no sign made by the slumberer to show that he even heard it. 

A rude shaking administered by Zeb had no better effect. It only 
produced a grunt, immediately succeeded by a return to the same 
stentorous respiration. 

" If 'twa'n't for his snorin' I mout b'liove him to be dead. He 
air dead drunk, an' no mistake ; intoxerkated to the very eends o' 
his toe-nails. Kickin' him 'ud be no use. Dog-goned, ef I don't 
try this:' 

The old hunter's eye, as he spoke, was resting upon a pail that 
stood in a comer of the cabin. It was full of water, which Phelim, 
for some purjiose, had fetched from the creek. Unfortunately for 
himself, he had not wasted it. 

With a comical expression in his eye, Zeb took up the pail ; and 
swilled the whole of its contents right down upon the countenance 
of the sleeper. 

It had the effect intended. If not quite sobered, the inebriate 
was thoroughly awakened ; and the string of terrified ejaculations 
that came from his lips fonned a contrasting accompaniment to the 
loud each innat ions of the hunter. 

It was some time before sufficient tranquillity was restored, to 
admit of the two men entering u})on a serious conversation. 

Phelim, however, despite his chronic inebriety, was still under 
the influence of his late fears, and was only too glad to see Zeb 
Stump, notwithstanding the unceremonious manner in wliich he 
had announced himself. 

As soon as an understanding was established between them, 
and without waiting to be questioned, he proceeded to relate 
in detail, as concisely as an unsteady tongue and disordered brain 
would permit, the series of strange sights and incidents that had 
almost deprived him of his senses. 

It was the first that Zeb Stump had heard of the Headless Horse- 
man, 

Althoup^h the rei)ort concerning this imperfect ])ersonago was 
that morning broadly scattered around Fort Jnge, and along the 



AN AWAKENER* 257 < 

Leona, Zcb, having passed through the fiettlement at an early hour, 
and stopped only at Ca«a del Corvo, had not chanced upon 
any one who could have communicated such a startling item of 
intelligence. In fact, he had exchanged speech only with Pluto and 
Louise Poindexter ; neither of whom had at that time heard any- 
thing of the strange creature encountered, on the evening before, 
by the party of searchers. The planter, for some reason or another, 
liad been but little conmiunicativc, and his daughter had not held 
converse with any of the others. 

At first Zeb was disposed to ridicule the idea of a man without 
a head. He called it " a fantassy of Pheelum's brain, owin' to his 
havin* tuk too much of the corn-juice." 

He was puzzled, however, by Phelim's persistence in declaring 
it to be a fact — ^more especially when he reflected on the other cir- 
cumstances known to him. 

" Arrah, now, how could I be mistaken ?" argued the Irishman. 
'* Didn't I see Masther Maurice, as plain as I see yourself at this 
minnit? All except the hid, and that I had a peep at as he 
turned to gallop away. Besides, thare was the Mexican blanket, 
an' the saddle wid the rid cloth, and the wather guards av spotted 
skin ; and who could mistake that purty horse ? An' havn't I 
towld yez that Tara went away afther him, an' thin I heerd the dog 
gowlin', jist afore the Indyins " 

" Injuns !" exclaimed the hunter, with a contemptuous toss oi 
the heail. " Injuns playin' wi' Spanish curds ! White Injuns, I 
reck'n." 

" Div yez think they waren't Indyins, afbher all ?" 

"Ne'er a matter what I think. Thur's no time to talk o' that 
now. Go on, an' tell me o' all ye seed an' heem." 

When Phelim had at length unburdened his mind, Zeb ceased to 
(juestion him ; and, striding out of the hut, squatted down, Indian 
fashion, upon the grass. 

His object was, as he said himself, to have " a good think ;" 
which, he had often declared, ho could not obtain while " hampered 
wi' a house abeout him." 

It is scarcely necessary to say, that the story told by the (hi" 
wegian groom only added to the perplexity ho already experienced. 

Hitherto there was but the disappearance of Henry Poindexter 
to be accounted for ; now there was the additional circumstance of 
the non-return of the mustanger to his hut — when it was known 
that ho had started for it, and should, according to a notice given 
to his servant, have been there at an early hour on the day before. 

Far more mystifying was the remarkable story: of his being seen 
riding about the prairie without a head, or with one carried in his 
hands ! Tliis last might be a trick. What else could it be ? 

Still was it a strange time for tricks — when a man had been 
murdered, and half the population of the settlement were out upon 
the track of the murderer — more especially improba]>le, that the 
supposed assassin should be playing them ! 



258 THE HEADLESS U0R8BMAX. 

Zeb Stump luad to deal with a difficult concatenation — or rather 
conglomeration of circumstances — events without causes— causes 
without secjuence — crimes committed without any probable motive 
— mysteries that could only be explained by an appeal to the super- 
natural. 

A midnight meeting between Maurice Gerald and Louise Poin- 
dexter — a quarrel with her brother, occasioned by its discoveiy — 
Maurice having departed for the prairies — Henry having followed 
to sue for forgiveness — in all this the sequence was natural and 
complete. 

Beyond began the chapter of confusions and contradictions. 

Zeb Stump knew the disposition of Maurice Gkrald in regard to 
Henry Poindexter. More than once he had heard the mustanger 
s]>eak of the young planter. Instead of having a hostility towards 
him, he had frequently expresst^d admiration of his ingenuous and 
generous character. 

That he could have changed from being his friend to become his 
assassin, was too im])robable for belief Only by the evidence of 
liis eyes could Zeb Stimip have been brought to fcelieve it. 

After spending a full half hour at his ** think," lie liad made 
but little progress towards unravelling the network of cognate, yet 
unconnected, circumstances. Despite an intellect unusually clear, 
and the possession of strong ])Owers of analysis, he was unable to 
reach any rational solution of this mysterious drama of many 
acts. 

The only thing clear to liini was, that four mounted men — ho 
did not believe them to be Indians — had been making free with 
the mustanger's hut ; and that it was most probable that these 
had something to do with the nuii-der that had been conmiittcd. 
But the presence of these men at thi' jacafe, coupled with the pro- 
tracted absence of its owner, conducted his conjectures to a still 
more melancholy conclusion : that more than one man had fallen a 
sacrifice to the assassin, and that the thicket might be searched 
for two bodies, instead of one ! 

A groan escaped from the bosom of the backwoodsman as this 
conviction forced itself upon his mind. He entertained for the 
young Irishman a peculiar all'ection — strong almost as that felt by 
a fatlier for his son ; and the thought that he had been foidly 
assassinated in some obscure corner of the chapparal, his flesh to 
be torn by the beak of the buzzard and the teeth of the coyote, 
stirred the old hunter to the very core of his heart. 

He groaned again, as he reflected upon it ; until, without action, 
he could no longer bear the agonising thought, and, springing to 
his feet, he strode to and fro over the ground, proclaiming, m loud 
tones, his purpose of vengeance. 

So absorbed was he with his sori*owful indignation, that he saw- 
not the staghound as it came skulking up to the hut. 

It was not until he heard Phelim caressing the hound in his 
grotesque Irish fashion, that he became aware of the creature's pre- 



AN AWAKENEB. 269 

sence ; and then he remained indifferent to it, until a ahout of sur- 
prise, coupled with his own name, attracted his attention. 

" What is it, Pheelum ? What's wrong ? lies a snake bit ye ?" 

** Oh, Misfcher Stump, luk at Tara ! See ! thare's somethin* 
tie<l about his neck. It wasn't there when he lift. What do yez 
think it is ?" 

The hunter's eyes turned immediately upon the hound. Sure 
enough there was somethiDg around the animal's neck : a piece of 
buckskin thong. But there was something besides — a tiny packet 
attached to the thong, and hanging underneath the throat ! 

Zeb drawing his knife, glided towards the dog. The creature 
recoiled in fear. 

A little coaxing convinced him that there wa^ no hostile intent ; 
and he came up again. ^ 

The thong was severed, the packet laid open ; it contained a 
card I 

There was a name upon the card, and writing — writing in 
what appeared to be red ink; but it was blood! 

The rudest backwoodsman knows how to i-cad. Even Zeb 
Stump was no exception ; and he soon deciphered the characters 
traced upon the bit of pasteboard. 

As he finished, a cry rose from his lips, in strange contrast with 
the groans he had been just uttering. It was a shout of gladness, 
of joy ! 

" Thank the Almighty for this !" he added ; " and thank my ole 
Katinuck schoolmaster for puttin' me clar through my Webster's 
spellin'-book. He lives, Pheelum ! he lives ! Look at this. Oh, 
you can't read. No matter. He lives ! he lives l" 

" Who ? Masther Maurice ? Thin the Lard be thanked, " 

" Wagh ! thur's no time to thank him now. Get a blanket an* 
some pieces o' horse-hide thong. Ye kin do it while I catch up 
the ole maar. Quick ! Helf an hour lost, an' we may be too late V 



CHAPTEK LIII. 

JUST IX TIME. 



" Hall-an-hour lost, and we may be too late !'* 

They were the last words of the hunter, as he hurried away from 
the hut. 

They were true, except as to the time. Had he said half-a- 
minute, he would have been nearer the mark. Even at the moment 
of their utterance, the man, whose red writing had summoned 
assistance, was once more in dread danger— once more surrounded by 
the coyotes. 



2/fjO THE HKAIlLEfrS H0BSElLi5. 

But it was n<A xhi^s hv had liovd to fear. A far more formid- 
able foe wa* thrL-atening his destruction. 

Maurice Gerald — bv this time recognised as the man in the 
cloak and Panama hat — after doing battle with the wolves, as 
already descriWl, and b<'ing rescuetl by his faithful Tara^ had 
sought repose in sleep. 

With full confidence in the ability of his canine companion to 
protect him againi^t the black birds, or the more dangerous 
quadnipedj«, with which he had been in conflict, he soon found, and 
for several hours enjoyed it. 

He awoke of hi.s own accord. Finding his strength much re- 
stored, he once more turned his attention to the perils that sur- 
rounded him. 

The dog had rescued him from the jackals, and would still 

Srotect him against their attacks, should they see fit to renew it. 
ut to what end ? The faithful creature could not transport him 
from the spot ; and to stay there would be to die of himger — 
perhaps of the wounds he had received ? 

He rose to his feet, but found tliat he could not stand upwright. 
Feebleness was nf»w addtnl to his other infirmity; and after strug- 
gling a pace or two, he was glad to return to a recumbent 
j>osition. 

At this crisis a happy thought occurred to him. Tara might 
take a message to the hut ! 

" If I could but get him to go," said he, as he turned inquiringly 
towards the dog. " Come hither, old fellow!" he continued. 
addresKiDg himself to the dumb animal; "I want you to play 

iiostman for me — to carry a letter. You understand ? Wait till 
['ve got it written. I shall then explain myself more fnlly." 

" By good luck I've got a card," he added, feeling for his case. 
" No pencil ! That don't matter. There's plenty of ink around ; 
and for a pen I can use the thorn of yonder maguey." 

He crept up to the i)lant thus designated ; broke off one of the 
long spines temiinating its great leaves ; dipped it in the blood of 
a coyote that lay near ; and drawing forth a card, traced some 
characters ui)on it. 

With a strij) of thong, the card was then attached to the 
neck of the stag-hoimd, alter being wrapped up in a piece of oil- 
cloth torn from the lining of the Panama hat. 

It only remained to desi)atch the canine post upon his errand. 

This i)rovcd a somewhat diflieidt task. The dumb creature, 
despite a wontlrous intelligence, could not comprehend why he 
should forsake the side of one he had so faithfully befriended; and 
for a long time resisted the coaxings and chidings, meant to warn 
him away. 

It was only after being scolded in a tone of assumed anger, and 
lieaten by the black-jack cnitch — stricken by the man whose life 
ho had so lately saved, that he had consented to leave the spot. 

Kveii canine affection could not endure this; and with rei>eated 



JUST IN TIME. 261 

looks of reproach, cast backwards as he was chased off, he trot- 
ted reluctantly into the chapparal. 

"Poor fellow!" solilocjuised Maurice, as the dog disappeared 
from his view. " 'Tis hke beating one's self, or one's dearest 
friend ! Well, I shall make up for it in extra kindness if I have 
the good fortune to see him again. 

" And now, that he is gone, I must provide against the coming 
back of these villanous coyotes. They will be sure to come, .onco 
they discover that I'm alone." 

A scheme had been already considered. 

A tree stood near — the pecan already alluded to — having two stout 
})ranches that extended horizontally and together, at six or seven 
feet from the ground. 

Taking off his cloak, and spreading it out upon the grass, with 
his knife he cut a row of holes along each edge. 

Then unwinding from his waist the sash of china crape, he tore 
it up the middle, so as to make two strips, each several yards long. 

The cloak was now extended between the branches, and fast 
tied by the strips of crape — thus forming a sort of hammock 
capable of containing the body of a man laid out at full length. 

The maker of it knew that the coyotes are not tree climbers ; 
and, reclining on his suspended couch, he could observe with 
indifference their efforts to assail him. 

He tooTt all this trouble, feeling certain they would return. If 
he had any doubt, it was soon set at rest, by seeing them, one after 
the other, come skulking out of the chapparal, loping a pace or 
two, at intervals, pausing to reconnoitre, and then advancing 
towards the scene of their late conflict. 

Emboldened by the absence of the enemy most dreaded by 
them, the pack was soon reassembled, once more exhibiting the 
truculent ferocity for which these cowardly creatures are cele- 
brated. 

It was first displayed in a very unnatural manner — by the de- 
vouring of their own dead — which was done in less times than it 
would have taken the spectator in the tree to have counted a score. 

To him their attention was next directed. In swinging his 
hammock, he had taken no pains to conceal it. He had suspended 
it high enough to be out of their reach ; and that he deemed 
sufficient for his purpose. 

The cloak of dark cloth was conspicuous, as well as the figure 
outlined within it. The coyotes clustered underneath ^their 
appetites whetted by the taste of blood. It was a sight to see 
them lick their red lips after their unnatural repast—a fearful 
sight ! 

He who saw it scarce regarded them — not even when they were 
springing up to lay hold of his limbs, or at times attempting to 
ascend by the trunk of the tree ! He supposed there was no 
danger. 

There was danger, however, on which he had not reckoned ; and 



262 THE HEADLESS HOBSEHAK. 

not till the coyotes has desisted from their idle attempts, and 
stretched themselves, panting, under the tree, did he begin to 
perceive it. 

Of all the wild denizens, either of prairie or chanparal, the 
coyote is. that possessed of the greatest cunning. Tne trapper 
will tell you it is tlie '* cunningest varmint in creation." It is a 
fox in astuteness — a wolf in ferocity. It may be tamed, but it 
will turn at any time to tear the hand that caresses it. A child 
can scare it with a stick, but a disabled man may dread its attack. 
Alone it has the habit of a hare ; but in packs — and it hunts only 
in packs — its poltroonery is less observable ; sometimes under the 
influence of extreme hunger giving place to a savageness of dispo- 
sition that assumes the semblance of courage. 

It is the coyotes' cunning that is most to be feared ; and it was 
this that liad begun to excite fresh apprehension in the mind of 
the mustanger. 

On discovering that they could not reach liim — a discovery they 
were not long in making — instead of scattering off from the spot, 
the wolves, one and all, squatted down upon the grass; while others, 
stragglers from the original troop, were still coming into the 
glade. He saw that they intended a siege. 

This should not have troubled him, seeing that he was secure in 
his suspended couch. 

Nor would it, but for another source of trouble, every moment 
making itself more manifest — that from which he had so lately 
had such a narrow escape. He was once more on the eve of 
being tortured by thirst. 

He blamed himself for having been so simple, as not to think of 
this before climbing up to the tree. He might easily have carried 
up a supply of wat^r. The stream was there ; and for want of a 
better vessel, the concave blades of the maguey would have served 
as a cistern. 

His self-reproaches came too late. The water was under his eyes, 
only to tantalise him ; and by so doing increase his eagerness to 
obtain it. He could not return to the stream, without running the 
gauntlet of the coyotes, and that would be certain death. He had 
but faint hopes that the hound would return and rescue him a 
second time — fainter still that his message would reach the man for 
whom it was intended. A hundred to one against that. 

Thirst is (juick in coming to a man whose veins are hall- 
emptied of their blood. The torture proclaimed itself apaee. How 
long was it to continue ? 

This time it was accompanied by a straying of the senses. The 
wolves, from being a hundred, seemed suddenly to have increased their 
number tenfold. A thousand appeared to encompass the tree, fill- 
ing the whole ground of the glade ! They came nearer and nearer. 
Their eyes gave out a lurid light. Their red tongues lapped the 
hangmg cloth ; they tore it with their teeth. He coiUd feel their 
fetid breath, as they sprang up among the branches! 



JUST IN TIME. 268 

A lucid interval told him that it was all fancy. The wolves were 
still there ; but only a hundred of them — as before, reclining upon 
the grass, pitiably awaiting a crisis ! It came before the period of 
lucicuty had departed ; to the spectator unexpected as inexplicable. 
He saw the coyotes suddenly spring to their feet, and rush off into 
the thicket, until not one remained within the glade. 

Was this, too, a fancy? He doubted the correctness of his 
vision. He had beg^n to believe that his brain was distempered. 

But it was clear enough now. There were no coyotes. \Vhat 
could have frightened them off ? 

A cry of joy was sent forth from his lipn, as he conjectured a 
cause. Tara had returned? Perhaps Phelim along with him ? There 
had been time enough for the delivery of the message. For twr 
hours he had been besieged by the coyotes. 

He turned upon his knee, and bending over the branch, scanned 
the circle around him. Neither hound nor henchman was in sight. 
Nothing but branches and bushes ! 

He listened. No sound, save an occasional howl, sent back by 
the coyotes that still seemed to continue their retreat ! More 
than ever was it like an illusion. What could have caused their 
scampering ? 

No matter. The coast was clear. The streamlet could now be 
approached without danger. Its water sparkled imder his eyes — 
its rippling sounded sweet to his ears. 

Descending from the tree, he staggered towards its bank, and 
reached it. 

Before stooping to drink, he once more looked around him. 
Kven the agony of thirst could not stifle the surprise, still fresh in 
his thoughts. To what was he indebted for his strange delircr- 
ance? 

Despite his hope that it might be the hound, he had an appre- 
hension of danger. 

One glance, and he was certain of it. TIio si)otted vellow skin 
shining among the leaves — the long, lithe form crawling like a snake 
out of the underwood was not to be mistaken. It was the tiger 
of the New World — scarce less dreaded than his congener of 
the Old — the dangerous jaguar. 

Its presence accounted for the retreat of the coyotes. 

Neither could its intent be mistaken. It, too, had scented blood, 
and was hastening to the spot where blood had been sprinkled, with 
that determined air that told it would not be satisfied till after 
partaking of the banquet. 

Its eyes were upon him, who had descended from the tree — its 
steps were towards him — now in slow, crouching gait ; but quicker 
and quicker, as if preparing for a spring. 

To retreat to the tree would liave been sheer folly. The jaguar 
can climb like a cat. The mustaugor knew this. 

But even had he been ignorant of it, it would have been all the 
same, as the thing was no longer possible. The animal had already 



THE HEADLESS H0R8EBIAK. 

passed that tree, ujx)!! wliich he had found refuge, and there was no 
other near that could he reached in time. 

He liad no thought of climhing to a tree — no thought of any- 
thing, so confused were his senses — partly from present surprise, 
partly from the hewildennent already within his hrain. 

It was a simple act of unreasoning impulse that led him to rush 
on into the stream, until he stood up to his waist in the water. 

Had he reasoned, he would have known that this would do 
nothing to secure his safety. If the jaguar dimhs like a eat, it 
also swims with the ease of an otter ; and is as much to be dreaded 
in the water as u])on the laud. 

Maurice made no such reflection. He suspectetl that the little 
pool, towards the centrt* of which he had waded, would prove 
but poor protection. He was sure of it when the jaguar, arriving 
upon the bank above him, set itself in that cowering attitude that 
told of its intention to spring. 

In despair he steadied himself to receive the onset of the fierce 
animal. 

He had nought wlierewith to re])el it — no knife — no pistol — no 
weapon of any kind — not even his crut<;h ! A stniggle with his 
bare arms could but end in his destruction. 

A wild cry went forth from his lii)s, as the tawny form was 
about launching itself Ibr the lea]). 

There was a simultaneous scream from the jaguar. Something 
appeared suddenly to impede it; and instead of alighting on the 
body of its victim, it fell short, with a dead plash upon the water ! 
Like an echo of his own, a cr}' came from the cbapparal, close 
following a sound that had preceded it — the shaq) " spang" of a 
lifle. 

A huge dog broke through the bushes, and sprang with a 
plunge into the pool where the jaguar had sunk below the surface. 
A man of colossal size advanced rapidly towards the bank ; 
another of lesser stature treading close upon his heels, and 
uttering joyful shouts of triumph. 

To the wounded man these sights and sounds were more like 
a vision than the perception of real phenomena. They were the 
last thoughts of that day that remained in his memory. His 
reason, kept too long upon the rack, had given way. He tried to 
strangle the faithful hound that swam fawningly around him ; 
and struggled against the strong arms that, raising him out of 
the water, bore him in fi-iendly embrace to the bank ! 

His mind had i)assed from a horrid reality, to a still more liorrid 
dream — the di'cam of delirium. 



205 



CHAPTER LIV. 

A PBATKIE PAL.VXQUIX. 

The friendly arms, llui\^ around Maurice Gerald, were those of 
Zeb Stump. 

Ouided by Ihj instructions writttMi upon the card, the hunter 
had xnadu all haste towards the ronde/.vous tluTe driven. 

He had arrived within si<i^ht, and fortunately within rifle-range, 
of th? spot, at that critical moment when the jaguar was preparing 
to spring. 

His bullet did not ])rovent the lierc? brute from making the 
bound — the last of its lift' — tliongli it had passed right through 
the animal's heart. 

This was a thing thought of afterwards — there was no oppor- 
tunity then. 

On rushing into the water, to make sure that his shot had proved 
fatal, the hunter was himself attacked ; not by the claws of the 
jaguar, but the hands of the man just rescued from them. 

Fortunate for Zeb, that the inustanger's knife had been left 
upon land. As it was, he came near being throttled ; and only 
after throwing aside his rifle, and employing all his strength, was 
he able to protect himself against the unlooked-for assault. 

A struggle ensued, which ended in Zeb iling^ng his colossal 
arms around the young Irishman, and b:.'aring him bodily to the 
bank. 

It was not all over. As soon as the latter was relieved from the 
embrace, he broke away and made for the pecAn tree — as rapidly as 
if the injured limb no longer imjMjded him. 

The hunter suspected his intent. Standing over six feet, he saw 
the bloody knife-blade lying along the cloak. It was for that 
the mustanger was making ! 

Zeb bounded after; and once more enfolding the madman in his 
bear-like embrace, drew him back from the tree. 

** Sj)eel up thur, Pheelum ! " shouted he. " (iit thsit thing out 
o' sight. The young fellur hev tuck leeve o' liis seven senses. 
Thur's fever in the feel o' him. He air gone didlerious !'* 

IMielim instantly obeyed ; and, scrambling up the tree-tiniuk, 
took possession of the knife. 

Still the struggle was not over. Tlie delirious man wTestled 
with his rescuer — not in silence, but with shouts and threatening 
speeches — his eyes all the tin>c rolling and glaring with a fierce, 
demoniac light. 

For full ten minutes did he continue the mad wrestling match. 

At length from sheer exhaustion he sank back upon the grass ; 
and after a few tremulous shiverings, accompanied by sighs heaved 



266 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAy. 

from the very bottom of his breast, he lay still, as if the last spark 
of life had departed from his body ! 

The Galwegian, believing it so, began uttering a series of 
lugubrious erics — the " keen " of Connemara. 

" Stop yur gowlin, ye durned cuss !" cried Zeb. " It air enuf to 
scare the breath out o* his karkidge. He's no more dead than you 
air — only fented. By the way he hev fit me, I reck'n there ain't 
much the matter wi' him. No," he continued, after stooping down 
and giving a short examination, " I kin see no wound worth makin 
a muss about. Thur's a consid'able swellin o' the knee ; but the 
leg ain't fructercd, else he kudn't a stud up on it. As for them 
scratches, they ain't much. What kin they be? 'Twarnt the 
jegwur that gin them. They air more like the claws o' a torn cat. 
Ho, ho ! I sees now. Thur's been a bit o' a skrimmage afore the 
spotted beest kim up. The young fellur's been attakted by 
coyoats ! Who'd a surposed that the cowardly varmints would a 
had the owdacity to attakt a human critter ? But they tciH, when 
they gits the chance o' one krippled as he air — durn 'em !" 

The hunter had all the talking to himself. Phelim, now over- 
joyed to know that his master still lived — and furthermore was in 
no danger of dying — suddenly changed his melancholy whine to a 
jubilant hullaballoo, and commenced dancing- over the ground, all 
the while snapping his fingers in the most approved Connemara 
fashion. 

His phrensied action provoked the hound to a like pitch of 
excitement ; and the two became engaged in a sort of ^vild Irish jig. 

Zeb took no notice of these grotesque demonstrations ; but, once 
more bending over the prostrate form, proceeded to complete the 
examination already begun. 

Becoming satisfied that there was no serious wound, he rose to 
his feet, and commenced taking stock of the odd articles around 
him. He had already noticed the Panama hat, that still adhered 
to the head of the mustanger ; and a strange thought at seeing it 
there, had passed through his mind. 

Hats of Guayaquil grass — erroneously called Panama — were not 
uncommon. Scores of Southeners wore them, in Texas as else- 
where. But he knew that the young Irishman was accustomed to 
carry a IVIexican sombrero — a very difterent kind of head-gear. It 
was possible he might have seen fit to change the fashion. 

Still, as Zeb continued to gaze upon it, he fancied he had .sei'n 
that hat before, and on some other head. 

It was not from any suspicion of its being honestly in possession 
of him now wearing it that the hunter stooped down, and took it off 
with the design to examine it. His object was simply to obtain 
some explanation of the mystery, or series of mysteries, hitherto 
baffling his brain. 

On looking inside the hat he read two names ; first, that of a New 
Orleans hatter, whose card was pasted in the crown : and then, in 
wnting, another well known to him : — 



A PRAIRIE PALANQUIN. 26? 

" HENET POINDEXTEH." 

The cloak now came under his notice. It, too, carried marks, by 
which he was able to identify it as belonging to the same owner. 

" Dog-goned kewrious, all this ! " muttered the backwoodsman, 
as he stood with his eyes turned upon the ground, and apparently 
buried in a profound reflection. 

** Hats, heads, an' everythin*. Hats on the wrong head ; heads 
i' the wrong place ! By the 'tamal thur's somethin' goed astray ! 
Ef 'twa'nt that I feel a putty consid'able sraartin* whar the young 
fellur gin me a lick over the left eye, I mout be arter believin' my 
own skull-case wa'nt any longer at ween my shoulders ! '' 

" It air no use lookin' to him," he added, glancing towards Mau- 
rice " for an explanation; leastwise till he's slep' off this dullerium 
thet's on him. When that'll be, ole Nick only knows. 

** Wal," he continued after another interval spent in silent re- 
flection, " It won't do no good our stayin' hyur. We must git 
him to the shanty, an' that kin only be did by toatin' him. Ho 
saved on the curd, he cud'nt make neer a track. It war only the 
anger kep' him up a bit. That leg looks wusser and wusser. He'ej. 
boun to be toated." 

The hunter seemed to cogitate on how he was to eff*ect this pur- 
pose. 

'* 'Taint no good expektin' him to help think it out," he continued 
looking at the Galwegian, who was busy talking to Tara. 
" The dumb brute hev more sense than he. Neer a mind. I'll 
make him take his full share o' the carrj'in* when it kum to thet. 
How air it to be done ? We must git him on a streeteher. That I 
reck'n we kin make out o' a kupple o' poles an' the cloak ; or wi' 
the blanket Pheelum fetched from the shanty. Ye-es ! a streeteher. 
That's the eydentikul eyedee." • 

The Connemera man was now summoned to lend assistance. 

Two saplings of at least ten feet in length were cut from the 
chapparal, and trimmed clear of t^\^gs. Two shorter ones were 
also selected, and lashed crosswise over the first ; and upon these 
were spread, first the serap6, and afterwards the cloak, to give 
greater strength. 

In this way a rude stretcher was constructed, capable of carrying 
either an invalid or an inebriate. 

In the mode of using it, it more resembled the latter than the 
former : since he who was to be borne upon it, again deliriously 
raging, had to be strapped to the tr<'stles ! 

Unlike the ordinary stretcher, it was not oarri(^d l>etwoL'n two 
men ; but a man and a marc — the mare at the head, the man bear- 
ing behind. 

It was he of Connemara who completed the ill-matched team. 
The old hunter had kept his promise, that Phelim should "take his 
full share o' the carryin,' when it kum to thet." 

He was taking it, or rather getting it— Zeb having api)ninted 
himself to the easier post of conductor. 



THE IIT^ADLESS HORSEMAN. 

Tho idea was not altogctlior original. It was a rudo copy from 
the Mexican lit era, which in Southern Texas Zob may liavc seen — 
differing from the latter only in being without screen, and instead 
of two mules, having for its atclage a marc and a man ! 

In this improvised palanquin was Maurice Gerald transported 

to his dwelling. 

• •••••• 

It was night when tho grotosjpie-looking group arrivwl at the 
jacale. 

In strong but tender arms the wounded man was transferred from 
the stretcher to the skin couch, on which he had been accustomed 
to repose. 

He was unconscious of where he was, and knew not the friendly 
faces bending over him. His thoughts wrre still astray, though 
no longer exciting him to violent action. lie was experiencing an 
interval of calm. 

He was not silent ; thoiiji^h he made no rejdy to the kind ques- 
tions addressed to him, or only answered them with an inconsequence 
that might have ]>rovokcd mirth. But there were wild words upon 
liis lips that forbade it — suggesting only serious thoughts. 

His wounds received such rude dressing as his companions were 
capable of administering to th«Mn; and nothing more could be done 
but await the return of day. 

Phelim went to slee}) uj)ou his shake-down ; while the other sate 
up to keep watch by the bedside of the sufferer. 

It was not from any unfaithfulness on the part of the foster- 
brother, that he seemed thus to disregard his dut}' ; but simply 
because Zeb had reijuested him to lie down — telling him there was 
no occasion for both to rcmaui awake. 

The old hunter had his reasons. He did not desire that those 
wild words should be heard even by Phelim. Better he should 
listen to them alone. 

Anl alone he sate listening to them — throughout the live-long 
night. 

He lu^a.^d speeches that surprised him, and names that did not. 
Ho was not sur])rised to hear the name *' Louise'* often repeat-ed, 
and coupled with fervent protestations of love. 

But there was another name also often pronounced — with 
speeches less pleasant to his ear. 

It was the name of Louise's brother. 

Tlie speeches were disjointed — incongnious, and almost unin- 
telligible. 

Comparing one with the other, however, and assisted by the cir- 
cumstances ahva<ly known to him, before the morning light had 
entered the jacale, Zeb Stump had come to the conclusion : that 
Henry Poindexter was no longer a living man ! 



2G9 



CHAPTER LV. 

UK DIA DB NOVEDADES. 



Don Silvio Martinez was one of the few Mexican ricoSy who 
liad chosen to remain in Texas, after the conquest of that country 
by the stalwart colonizers from the North. 

A man of more than mature age, of peaceful habits, and taking 
no part in politics, he accepted the new situation without any 
great regret. He was the more easily reconciled to it, from a 
knowledge, that his loss of nationality was better than counter- 
balanced by his gain of security against Comanche incursions; 
which, previous to the coming of the new colonists, had threatened 
the complete depopulation of the country. 

The savage was not yet entirely subdued ; but his maraud was 
now intermittent, and occurred only at long intervals. Even this 
was an improvement on the old r^ime, 

Don Silvio was a ganadero, — a grazier, on a grand scale. So 
grand that his ganaderia was leagues in length and breadth, 
and contained within its limits many thousands of horses and 
horned cattle. 

He lived in a large rectangular one-storied house — more resem- 
bling a jail tlian a dwelling — surrounded by extensive enclosures 
{corrales). 

It was usually a quiet place ; except during the time of the 
herradero, or cattle-branding ; when for days it became the scene 
of a festivity almost Homeric. 

These occasions were only of annual occurrence. 

At all other times the old haciendado — who was a bachelor to 
boot — led a tranquil and somewhat solitary life; a sister older than 
himself being his only companion. There were occasional excep- 
tions to this rule : when his charming sobrina rode across 
from the Rio Grande to pay him and his sister a visit. Then the 
domicile of Don Silvio bcKjame a little more lively. 

Isidora was welcome whenever she came ; welcome to come and 
go when she pleased ; and do as she pleased, while under her 
uncle's roof. The sprightliness of her character was anything 
but displeasing to the old haciendado ; who was himself far from 
being of a sombre disposition. Those traits, that might have 
appeared masculine in many other lands, were not so remarkable in 
one, where life is held by such precarious tenure ; where the country 
house is oft transformed into a fortress, and the domestic hearth 
occasionally bedewed with the blood of its inmates ! 

Is it surprising that in such a land women should be found, 
endowed with those qualities that have been ascribed to Isidora ? 
If so, it is not the less true that they exist. 

As a general thing the Mexican woman is a creature of the most 



270 THE HEADLKSS HORaSMAN. 

amiable disposition ; douce — if we may be allowed to borrow from 
a language that deals more frequently with feminine traits — ^to bucH 
an extent, as to have become a national characteristic. It is to the 
denizens of the great cities, secure from Indian incursion, that this 
character more especially applies. On the frontiers, harried for 
the last half century by the aboriginal freebooter, the case is some- 
what different. The amiability still exists ; but often combined 
with a hravourie and hardihood masculine in seeming, but in reality 
heroic. 

Since !Malinche, more than one fair heroine has figured in the 
history of Anahuae. 

Don Silvio Martinez had himself assisted at many a wild scene 
and eercniony. His youth had been passed amid perils ; and the 
courage of 1 side »ra— at times degenerating into absolute reckless- 
ness — st> far from oHendinjjf, rather gave him gratification. 

The old gentleman loved his darling 8ohrina, as if she liad been 
his own child ; and had she been so, she would not have been more 
certain of succeeding tt) his possessions. 

Every one knew, that, when Don Silvio Martinez should take 
leave of life, Lsidora Covai-ubio de los Llanos would be the owner of 
— not his broad acres, but — his Uaguea of land, as also his thousands 
of horses and horned cattle. 

With this understanding, it is needless to say, that the senorita 
carried respect with her wlnTever she went, or that the vassals of 
tlie Hacienda Martinez lu)noured her as their future mistress. 

Indepeuilently of this was she regarded. Hers were just the 
(qualities to win the esteem of the dashing rancJieros; and there 
was not uue upt>n the estate, but Would have drawn his machete at 
her nod, ami used it to the shedding of blood. 

Miguel Diaz spoke the truth, when he said he was in danger. 
Well niiglii lie l.»elieve it. Ha<l it pleaseil lsidora to call togetlier 
her uncle's vaqurroSy and senil them to chastise him, it would have 
been speedily done — even to hanging him upon the nearest tree! 
Xo wonder he had made such haste to get away from the glade. 
As already stated, the real home of lsidora was upon the other 
side of th.' ivio Grande — se]»arated by some three-score miles from 
the Hacienda Martinez. Hut this did not hinder her from paying 
fretpient visits to her relations upon the Leona. 

There was no seltishness in the motive. The prospect of the 
rich inheritance had nothing to do with it. She was an expectant 
heirt'ss without that : for her own father was a rico. But she 
liked the company of her uncle and aunt. She also enjoyed the 
ride from river to river — (»ft made by her between morning and 
night, and not unfreiiuently alone I 

Of late these visits had become of much more frequent occurrence. 
Had she grown fonder of the society of her Texan relatives — 
fonder as they grew older ? If not, what was her motive ? 

Imitating her own frankness of character, it may at once bo 
declared. 



t;n dia de novkdades. 271^ 

Slie came oftener to the Leona, in the hope of meeting with 
Maurice Gerald. 

With like frankness may it he told, that she loved him. 

Beyond doubt, the young Irishman was in possession of her heart. 
As already known, he had won it by an act of friendship ; though 
it may have been less the service he had done, than the gallantry 
displayed in doing it, that had put the love-spell on the daring 
Isidora. 

Perhaps, too, she saw in him other captivating qualities, less 
easily detfned. Whether these had been imdesignedly exhibited, 
or with the intention to effect a conquest, he alone can tell. He 
has himself said, No ; and respect is due to his declaration. But 
it is difhcult to believe, that mortal man could have gazed into 
the eyes of Isidora de los Llanos without wishing them to look 
hmgingly upon him. 

Maurice may have spoken the truth ; but we could better believe 
him, had he seen Louise Poindexter before becoming acquainted 
with Isidora. 

The episode of the burnt prairie was several weeks subsequent 
to the adventure with the intoxicated Indians. 

Certainly something appears to have occurred between him and 
the Mexican maiden, that leads her to believe she has a hope — if 
not a claim — upon his affections. 

It has come to that crisis, that she can no longer rest sat- 
isfied. Her impulsive spirit cannot brook ambiguity. She knows 
that she loves him. She has determined to make frank confes- 
sion of it ; and to ask with like frankness whether her passion 
be reciprocated. Hence her liaving made an appointment that 
could not be kept. 

For that day Don Miguel Diaz had interfered between her and 
her purpose. 

So thought she, as she galloped out of the glade, and hastened 
back to the hacienda of her uncle. 

Astride her grey steed she goes at a gallop. 

Her head is bare ; her coiffure disarranged ; her rich black tresses 
streaming back beyond her shoulders, no longer covered by scarf, 
or seraph. The last she has left behind her, and along with it her 
vicuna hat. 

Her eyes are flashing with excitement; her cheeks flushed to the 
colour of carmine. 

The cause is known. 

And also why she is riding in such hot haste. She has herself 
declared it. 

On nearing the house, she is seen to tighten her rein. The 
horse is pulled in to a slower pace — a trot ; slower still — a walk ; 
and, soon after, he is halted in the middle of the road. 

His rider has changed her intention j or stops to reflect whether 
she should. 



272 TOE HEADLESS HOBSEMAK. 

She sits reflecting. 

"On second thoughts — perhai>s — ^better not have him taken? 
It would create a terrible scandal, everywhere. So far, no one 

knows of . Besides, what can I say myself — the only witness ? 

Ah ! were I to tell these gallant Texans the story, my own testi- 
mony would be enough to have him punished with a harsh hand. 
No ! let him live. Ladron as he is, I do not fear him. After what's 
happened he will not care to come near me. Santa Virgenf to think 
that I could have felt a fancy for this man — short-livcil as it was ! 

" I must scud some one back to release him. One who can keep 
my secret — who? Benito, the mayor-domo — faithful and brave. 
Oracias a dios ! Yonder\s my man — as usual busied in counting 
his cattle. Benito! Benito!" 

" At yoin* orders, s*iiorita ? " - 

" Good Benito, I want you to do me a kindness. You consent ? " 

" At your orders, s'iiorita ?'' repeats the mayor-domo, bowing low. 

" Not orders, good Benito. 1 wish you to do me a favour.** 

" Command me, s'iiorita!" 

" You know the spot of open ground at the top of the hill — where 
the three roads meet r'* 

"As well as the corral of your uncle's hacienda.*' 

" Good ! Go there. You will find a man lying upon the ground, 
his arms entangled in a lazo. Release, and let him go free. If he 
be hurt — by a harsh fall ho has had —do what you can to restore 
him ; but don't tell him who sent you. You may know the man — 
I think you do. No matter for that. Ask him no questions, nor 
answer his, if he should put any. Once you have seen him on 
his legs, let him make use of them after his own fashion. You 
understand r" 

^' Perfcctamenie, s'norila. Your orders shall be obeyed to the 
letter." 

" Thanks, good Benito. XTncle Silvio will like you all the better 
for it ; thongli i/oii mustn't tell him of it. Leave that to me. If 
he shouldn't— if he shouldn't — well! one of these days there may 
be an estate on the Bio Grande that will stand in need of a briive, 
faithful steward — such an one as I know you to be." 

" Every one knows that the Dona Isidora is gracious as she is 
fair." ^ 

" Thanks — thanks ! One more request. The senice I ask you 
to do for me must be known, only to three individuals. The third 
is he whom you are sent to succour. You know the other two ? " 

" S'norita, I comprehend. It shall be as you wish it." 

The mayor-domo is moving off — on horseback, it need scarce bo 
said. Men of his calling rarely set foot to the earth — never upon 
a journey of half a league in length. 

"Stay! I had forgotten!" calls out thj lady, arresting him. 
" You will find a hat and seraj e. They are mine. Bring them to 
me. I shall wait for you here, or meet you somewhere along the 
road,'* 



UN 1>IA DE KO\'£UADKS. 278 



Lgain rides away. Again is he summoned to stop, 
thoughts, Scnor Benito, I*vc made up my mind to 



Bowing, he again : 

" On second 
go along with you. Vamoa /' 

The steward of Don Silvio is not surprised at caprice, when 
exhihited hy the niece of his employer. Without questioning, he 
obeys her command, and once more heads his horse for the hill. 

The lady follows. She has told him to ride in the advance. 
She has her reason for departing from the aristocratic custom. 

Benito is astray in his conjecture. It is not to caprice that he 
is indebted for the companionship of the senorita. A serious 
motive takes her back along the road. 

She has forgotten something more than her wrapper and hat — 
that little letter that has caused her so much annoyance. 

The " good Benito " has not had all her confidence ; nor can he 
be entrusted with this. It might prove a scandal, graver than the 
quarrel with Don Miguel Diaz. 

She rides back in hopes of repossessing herself of the epistle. 
How stupid not to have thought of it before ! 

How had El Coyot6 got hold of it ? He must have had it from 
Jor6! 

Was her servant a traitor? Or had Diaz met him on the way, 
and forced the letter from him ? 

To either of these questions an affirmative answer might be 
surmised. 

On the part of Diaz such an act would have been natural enough ; 
and as for Jose, it is not the first time she has had reason for 
suspecting his fidelity. 

So run her thoughts as she reascends the slope, leading up from 
the river bottom. 

The summit is gained, and the opening entered ; Isidora now 
riding side by side with the mayor-domo. 

No Miguel Diaz there — no man of any kind; and what gives 
her far greater chagrin, not a scrap of paper! 

There is her hat of vicuna wool — her seraph of Saltillo, and the 
loop end of her lazo — nothing more. 

*' You may go home again, Senor Benito! The man thrown 
from his horse must have recovered his senses — and, I suppose, his 
saddle too. Blessed be the virgin ! But remember, good Benito 
Secrecy all the same. Untiende, F/" 

" Yo eniiendoy Dona Isidora .'' 

The niayor-domo moves away, and is soon lost to sight behini 
the crest of the hill. *' 

• #••••• 

The lady of the lazo is once more alone in the glade. 

She springs out of her saddle ; dons seraph and sombrero ; and 
is again the beau-ideal of a youthful hidalgo. 

She remounts slowly, mechanically — as if her thoughts do not 
accompany the action. Languidly she lifts her limb over the 
croup. The pre It v foot is for a second or two poised in the air. 

V 3 



274 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAX. 

Her ankle, escaping from the skirt of her enagua, displays a tour- 
nui e to have crazed Praxiteles. As it descends on the opposite side of 
the hor.se, a cloud seems to overshadow the sun. Simon Stjlites 
could scarce have closed his eyes on the spectacle. 

But there is no spectator of this interesting episode; not even 
the wretched Jos^ ; who, the moment after, comes skulking into 
the glade. 

He is questioned, without circumlocution, upon the subject of the 
strayed letter. 

" Wliat have you done with it, sirrah ?'* 

" Delivered it, my lady." 

" To whom?" 

*' 1 left it at — at — the posada,'^ he replies, stammering and turn- 
ing pale. '•' Don Mauricio had gone out.'* 

•' A lie, Jepero ! You gave it to Don Miguel Diaz. No denial, 
sir I I've seen it .since." 

" O Senora, jiardon I pardon I I am not guiltv — indeed I am 
not." 

** Stupid, \i)\x sli(juld have told your story better. You have 
conmiitted yourself. How much did Don Miguel pay you for your 
treason ?'* 

" As I live, lady, it was not treason. He — he — forced it from 
me— by threats — blows. I — I — was not paid." 

" Y'ou shall be, then ! 1 discharge you from my service ; and for 
wages take that, and that, and that — " 

For at least ten times are the words repeated — the riJing whip 
at each repetition descending upon the shoulders of the dishonest 
messenger. 

He essays to escape by running off. In vain. He is brought 
up again by the divad of being ridden over, and trampled under 
the honfs of the excited horse. 

Not till the blue wheals appear upon his brown skin, does the 
chastisement cease. 

*' Xow, sirrah ; from my sight ! and let me see you no more. Al 
monte! al monte! " 

With ludicrous alacrity the conmiand is obtTcd. Like a scared 
cat the discharged servitor rushes out of the glade; only too 
happy to hide himself, and his shame, under the shadows of the 
thorny thicket. 

But a little while longer does Isidora remain upon the spot — 
her anger giving jdaee to a profound chagrin. Not only has she 
been balllcd from carrying out her design; but her heart's secret 
is now in the keeping of traitors ! 

Once more she heads her horse homeward. 

She arrives in time to be present at a singular spectacle. 

The people — peons, vaqueros, and employes of every kind — are 
hurrying to and fro, from Held to corral, from corral to courtyard ; 
one and all giving tongue to terrified ejaculations. 

The men arc* on their feet arming in confused haste; the women on 



UN DIA DE NOVEDADES. 276 

tlieir knees, praying pitifully to heaven — through the intercession of 
a score of those saints, profusely furnished by the Mexican hier- 
archy to suit all times and occasions. 

"What is causing the commotion?" 

This is the question asked by Isidora. 

The mayor-domo — who chances to be the first to present himself 
— is the individual thus interrogated. 

A man has been murdered somewhere out upon the prairie. 

The victim is one of the new people who have lately taken 
possession of Caso del Corvo — the son of the American haciendado 
himself. 

Indians are reported to have done the deed. 

Indians ! In this word is the key to the excitement among 
Don Silvio's servitors. 

It explains both the praying and the hurried rushing to arms. 

The fact that a man has been murdered — a slight circumstance 
in that land of unbridled emotions — would have produced no such 
response — more especially when the man was a stranger, an 
*' Americano." 

But the report that Indians are abroad, is altogether a dif- 
ferent affair. In it there is an idea of danger. 

The effect produced on Isidora is different. It is not fear of the 
savages. The name of the " asesinado" recals thoughts that have 
already given her pain. She knows that there is a sister, spoken 
of as being wonderfully beautiful. She has herself looked upon 
this beauty, and cannot help believing in it. 

A keener pang proceeds from something else she has heard : that 
this peerless maiden has been seen in the company of Maurice 
Gerald. There is no fresh jealousy inspired by the news of 
the brother's death — only the old unpleasantness for the moment 
revived. 

The feeling goon gives place to the ordinary indifference felt 
for the fate of those with whom we have no acquaintance. 

Some hours later, and this indifference becomes changed to a 
painful interest ; in short, an apprehension. There are fresh 
reports about the murder. It has been committed, not by Co- 
manches; but by a white man — by Maurice the mustanger! 

There arc no Indians near. 

This later edition of "novcdades," while tranquilizing Don Silvio's 
servants, has the contrary effect upon his niece. She cannot rest 
under the rumour ; and half-an-hour aftenvards, she is seen reining 
up her horse in fiont of the village hotel. 

For some weeks, with motive unknown, she has been devoting 
herself to the study of La lengua Americana. Her vocabulary of 
English words, still 'scanty, is sufficient for her present purpose ; 
which is to acquire information, not about the murder, but the 
man accused of committing it. 

The landlord, knowing who she is, answers her inquiries with 
obsequious poUteness. 



270 t:ii: headless ho^sziux. 

She li.-aras that Maurice Gerald is no loiigei his guest, with " full 
particulars of the inurder," s*> far as known. 

Witli a sad ht-art she rides ba-jk t) the Hacienda Martinez. 

On reaching the h«iuse, she finds its tramqaillity again dis- 
turlxjl. T!ie new cause of excitement might have been deemed 
ludicrou.s; thouijh it is n<>t so regarded hv the superstitious peons. 

A rare mmour has reached the jilace. A man ^-ithoat a head — 
vn homhre descahezado — has been seen riding about the plains, 
somewliere near the Rio Nueces I 

Despit*.* its a]>parent absurdity, there can be no doubting the 
correctness of the rcix)rt. It is rif^? throughout the settlement. 

But thi.re is still surer ciniliniiati<Mi of it. A party of Don 
Silvio's own i>eople — herdsmen out in Rcari'h of strayed cattle — 
have seen the cavallero descahfzado ; and, desisting fiom their 
search, had ridden awav from him. as thev would have done from 
the devil I 

The vaqueros — there are three of them — are all ready to swear 
to the account given. But their scared looks furnish a more 
trustworthy evidence of its truthfulness. 

Tlie sun f^oes down upon a congeries of frightful rumours. 

Neither these nor the protestations of Don Sih'io and his sister 
can prevent their capricious niece from carr^-fng out a resolution 
she siM-ms suddenly to have fonned — which is, to ride back to 
the Uio Grande. It makc^ no difference to her, that a murder 
has been committed on the road she will have to take ; much less 
that near it has been seen the ghastly apparition of a headless 
horseman I What to any other traveller should cause dismay, 
seems only to attract Isidora. 

She even proposes making the journey alone! Don Silvio 
offers an escort — half a score of his vaqueroa, armed to the teeth. 
The offer is rejected. 

Will she take Henito r 

No. She prefers journeying alon'. 

In short, she is determined upon it. 

♦ ♦#### 

Next morning she carries out this determination. Ky day-break 
Hhe is in the saddle ; and, in less than two hours afterrriding, not 
upon the direct road to the Kio (Jrande, but along the banks of 
the Alamo ! 

Why has she thus deviated from her route? Is she stray- 
ing? 

She looks not like one who has lost her way. There is a 
sad expression ui)on her eounteuance, but not one of inquiry. 
Besides, her horse steps eonlidently forward, as if under his rider's 
direction, and guidid by the rein." 

Isidora is not straying. She has not lostlier way. 

Happier for her. if she had. 



277 



CHAFPER LVI. 

A SHOT AT THE DEVIL. 



All night long the invalid lay awake ; at times tranquil, at times 
giving wav to a paroxysm of unconscious passion. 

All nigfit long the hunter sate by his bedside, and listened to 
his incoheront utterances. 

They but confirmed two points of belief already impressed upon 
Zeb's mind : that Louise Poindexter was beloved ; that her brotner 
had been murdered ! 

The last was a belief that, under any circumstances, would have 
been painful to the backwoodsman. Coupled with the facts already 
known, it was agonising. 

He thought of the quarrel — the hat — ^the cloak. He writhed 
as he contemplated the labyrinth of dark ambiguities that pre- 
sented itself to his mind. Never in his life had his analvtical 
powers been so completely baflied. He groaned as he felt their 
impotence. 

He kept no watch upon the door. He knew that if they 
came, it would not be in the night. 

Once only he went out ; but that was near morning, when the 
light of the moon was beginning to mingle with that of the 
day. 

He had been summoned by a sound. Tara, straying among 
the trees, had given utterance to a long dismal " gowl," and come 
running scared-like into the hut. 

Extinguishing the light, Zeb stole forth, and stood listening. 

There was an interruption to the nocturnal chorus ; but that 
might have been caused by the howling of the hound ? What had 
caused it ] 

The hunter directed his glance first upon the open lawn; then 
around its edge, and under the shadow of the trees. 

There was nothing to be seen there, except what should be. 

He raised his eyes to the clitf, that in a dark line trended along 
the horizon of the sky — broken at both ends by the tops of some 
tall tiees that rose above its crest. There were about fifty paces 
of clear space, which he knew to be the edge of the upper plain 
terminating at the brow of the precipice. 

Tlie line separating the chiaro from the oscuro could be traced 
distinctly as in the day. A brilliant moon was beyond it. A 
snake could have been seen crawling along the top of the cliff. 

There was nothing to be seen there. 

But there was something to be heard. As Zeb stood listening, 
there came a sound from the upper plain, that seemed to have 
been ])roduced not far back from the summit of the cliff. It 
resembled the clinking of a hoi'se's shoe struck against a loose stone. 



27B THE IIEM)LESS HOESEMAX. 

So conjectured Zeb, as with open ears he listened to catch its 
repetition. 

It was not repeated ; but he soon saw what told him his con- 
jecture was coiTCct — a horse, stepping out from behind the tree- 
tops, and advancing along the line of the bluft'. 

There was a man upon his back — both horse and man distinctly 
seen in dark silhouette against the clear sapphire sky. 

The figure of the horse was perfect, as in the outlines of a skil- 
fully cast medallion. 

That of the man could be traced — only from the saddle to the 
shoulders. 13elow,the limbs were lost in the shadow of the animal; 
though the s])arkle of spur and stirrup told that they were there. 
Above, there was nothing — not even the semblance of a head ! 

Zeb Stump rubbed his eyes and looked ; and rubbed them and 
looked again. It did not change the character of the apparition. 
If he had rubbed them fourscore times, he would have seen the 
same — a horseman without a head. 

This very sight he saw, beyond the possibility of disbelieving — 
saw the horse advancing along the level line in a slow but 
steady pace —without footfall — without sound of any kind — as if 
gliding rather than walking — like the shifting scene of a cosmo- 
rama ! 

Not for a mere instant had be the opportunity of observing 
the spectral a})parition ; but a period long enough to enable him to 
note every detail — long enough to satisfy him that it could be no 
illusion of the eye, or in any way a deception of his senses. 

Nor did it vanish abruptly from his view ; but slowly and gra- 
dually : first the head of the horse ; then the neck and shoulders ; 
then the shape, half ghastly, half grotesque, of the rider ; then the 
hind-quarters of the animal ; the hips j and last of all the long 
tapering tail ! 

" Geehosopluit !" 

It was not sui'i^rise at the disappearance of the headless hoise- 
man that extorted this exclamation from the lips of Zeb Stump. 
There wa^s nuthing strange about this. The spectacle had simply 
passed behind the proseenimn — represented by the tope of tree 
tops rising above the blufi*. 

"Geehosophat!" 

Twice did the baekwoodsmau give utterance to this, his favourite 
expression of sur]>riso ; ])oth times with an emphasis that told of 
an unlhnited astunishnient. 

His looks betrayed it. Despite his undoubted courage, a shiver 
passed through his eullossal frame ; while the pallor upon his lips 
was i)ereeptible through their l.)rown priming of tobacco juice. 

For some time he stood spteehless, as if unable to follow up 
his double ejaculation. 

His tongue at length retunied to him. 

" Dog— gone my cats !" he muttered, but in a very low tone, and 
with eyes still fixed upon the point where the horse's tail had been 



A SHOT AT THE DEVIL. 279 

last seen. " If that ere don't whip the hul united creashun, my . 
name ain't ZebUon Stump ! The Irish hev been right arter all. I 
tho't he hed dreemt o* it in his drink. But no. He hev seed 
somethin' ; and so liev I meself. No wonner the cuss wur skeeart. 
I feel jest a spell shaky in my own narves beout this time. Qee- 
hosophat ! what kin the durned thing be ?" 

" What kin it be ? " he continued, after a period spent in 
silent reflection. " Dog-goned, ef I kin detarmine one way 
or the tother. Ef 't hed been only i' the daylight, an' I 
ked a got a good sight on't ; or eft hed been a leetle bit cloaster ! 
Ha ! Why moutn't I git cloaster to ii ? Dog-goned, ef I don't 
hev a try ! I reck'n it won't eet me — ^not ef it air ole Nick ; an' 
ef it air him, I'll jest satersfy meself whether a bullet kin go 
custrut thro' his infernal karkidge 'ithout throwin' him out o* the 
seddle. Hyur go for a cloaster akwaintancc wi' the varmint, what- 
somiver it be." 

So saying, the hunter stalked off through the trees — ^upon the 
path that led up to the bluff. 

He had not needed to go inside for his rifle — having brought 
that weapon out with him, on hearing the howl of the hound. 

If the headless rider was real flesh and blood— -earthly and not 
of the other world — Zeb Stump might confidently count upon 
seeing him again. 

When viewed from the door of the jacaU^ he was going direct 
towards the ravine, that permitted passage from the higher level 
to the bottom lands of the Alamo. As Zeb had started to avail 
himself of the same patli, unless the other should meantime 
change direction, or his tranquil pace to a trot or gallop, the back- 
woodsman would be at the head of the pass as soon as he. 

Before starting, Zeb had made a calculation of the distance to be 
done, and the time to do it in. 

His estimate proved correct — to a second, and an inch. As his 
head was bn)ught nearly on a level with the upland plain, he saw 
the shoulders of the horseman rising above it. 

Another step upward, and the body was in view. Another, and 
the horse was outlined against the sky, from hoof to forelock. 

He stood at a halt. He was standing, as Zeb first came in sight of 
him. He was fronting towards the clift', evidently intending to go 
down into the gorge. His rider appeared to have pulled him up 
as a measure of precaution ; or he may have heard the hunter 
scrambling up the ravine ; or, what was more likely, scented him. 

For whatever reason, he was standing, front face to the spec- 
tator. 

On seeing him thus, Zeb Stump also came to a stand. Had it 
been many another man, the same might have been said of his 
hair ; and it is not to be denied, that the old hunter was at that 
moment, as he acknowledged himself, " a spell shaky 'beout the 
narves." 

He was firm enough, however, to carry out the purpose that had 



2W> 

yri^tij.^^y, LLn. :.. §>"•-£. zLiz »Li:jiIar '-LZcrrji'M : «&iidft wa*. to di*- 
«/F^ x'j-^v^r 2- Lifci V isil xric. & £>-;"^j;* t«i=z. -ir the deril ! 

Ic 4:l ::>-^-: LI* rlr!- iri.- ac Li* *L«:«iiirf. "kis eje gfancin^ 
aL'jiQ^ tL.; -ar?r; : :Lr -L-Li*. 't zLz Lrrip .;< a brilSaat moonHght, 
li^ancz ~;xr- ".L^ L-^ar: •: :Lr H-raiD:^ H^i^^Eun. 

In a:. .V..-r. 4 " ilirt x -II Ljlt- r^rn tfcricgh h: l«it for a 
tlioicyff.t t:*i:j ^t :L-r. fj^Lri i-r:*** tLr brain •./ ili^lMckwooikiiiaii. 

yLxy^ L> Ti- A* *.»::: to ..rr.. rr.it wn&rStrT 

A: t:*-r tr..-:/:.: r.c '.,^kt^I :Lc zaozzlc of hU picc<.uid remained 
for a tixr ::. ir : ;-<i. 

- It if.o'it r^ a r.^ar/r" rr.ittrroi hr. -tLxizh it don't look Eke 
it air. Ti.ir ain't r>,i- t-nif :V.r a hca-i cn^r that ere Mexikin 
blanket, r* * hoa-. VA :t f •? a hisiaa critter he hoT got a tongne I 
reck'n. thouir^i L- air/t m': h o* a hea.i to hold it in. Uilloo 
•irwjtfer! V*-Te ''vit tor a putty latri^h ride, ain*t x^z Hain't ye 
f org' ft to fetch yor head wi yer*' 

Ther: wait lio r-irpiy. Tf;e hor>e snorted, on hearing the Toiee. 
That waH all. 

"LorAe*? hyur, fitrenj:er ! ()\e Zob Stump from the State o' 
Kintiicky, air tlie individrK^al whoV now speakin' to ye. He 
ain't one o' thet »ort ter U: trifled wi*. Don't try to knm none 
o' yer damfr^^^lery over this h^-ur coon. I warn ye to deelur yur 
game. If ye're pUiyin pf/.«.-uin, ye'd better throw up yur hand; or 
hy the jiiiijpin' Ocehonopliat, }e may lose ]>oth yur stake an' ^kTir 
i'urtU I SjK:ak out now, afor»i ye ^ts plugj^ wi' a piece o' lead I" 

JjCHh riMponne than before. This time the horse, becomiDg ac- 
cuHtoni<;d to tlie voi(T% only tossed ujj his head. 

" Tli'Mi 'lo^-jj^one yel" hhouted the hunter, exasperated by what 
he decnKvl an insulting sileiice. *' Six seconds more — I'll gie ye 
nix nion- ; an' cf ye don't show speech by that time, I'll let dri^'e 
at ynr ^uls. Kf ye're but a dummy it won't do ye any harm. No 
more will it, I reekun, ef ye air the devil. ]5ut ef ye're a man 
plavin' |)osHiun, duni me (jf ye don't desarve to be shot for bein 
well a d d fool. 8iii*^ out !" he continued with increasing anger, 
•• MJiif^ out, I lell ye! Ye won't? Then hyur ^'oes! One — two — 
three — four — five six !" 

VVbcre " seven " should have come in, had the count been con- 
tinu(>d, was heard the sharp crack of a rille, followed by the sibil- 
lation of a si)iunin^ bullet ; then the dull " thud " as the deadly 
misHile buried itself in some solid body. 

The only elh'ct produced by the shot, a])poared to be the fright- 
iMiing of the horse. The rider still kept his seat in the saddle! 

Ji was not I'ven certain the horse was scared. The clear neigh 
thai respouiled to the detonation of the rille, had something in it 
that souuth'd ihrisive ! 

For all that, tin* animal went oif at a tearing gallop; leaving Zeb 
Stump a i»r(»v to the protbundest surprise he had ever experienced. 

AIVt diselmr^iny: his ritle, he remained upon his knees, for a 
period iA' Ni'veral seconds. 



A SHOT AT THE DEVIL. 281 

If his nerves were unsteady before the shot, they had become 
doubly so now. He was not only suq)rised at the result, but 
terrified. He was certain that his bullet had passed through the 
nian*s heart — or where it should be — as sure as if his muzzle had 
been held close to the ribs. 

It could not be a man ? He did not believe it to be one ; and 
this thought might have reassured him, but for the behaviour of 
the horse. It was that wild unearthly neigh, that was now chilling 
his blood, and causing his limbs to shake, as if under an ague. 

He would have retreated ; but, for a time, he felt absolutely 
unable to rise to his feet; and he remained kneeling, in a 
sort of stupefied terror — watching the weird form till it receded out 
of sight far off* over the moonlit plain. Not till then did he 
recover sufficient courage, to enable him to glide back down the 
gorge, and on towards the jacaU. 

And not till he was under its roof, did he feel sufficiently himself, 
to reflect with any calmness on the odd encounter that had occurred 
to him. 

It was some time before his mind became disabused of the idea 
that he had been dealing with the devil. Reflection, however, 
convinced him of the improbability of this ; though it gave him 
no clue as to what the thing really was. 

" Shurly," muttered he, his conjectu.-.il f ^rni of speech showing 
thit hL^ was still undecided, " Shurly arter all it can't be a thing o* 
the tother world — else I kedn't a heern the cothug o* my bullet ? 
Sartin the lead struck agin somethin* solid; an' I reck'n thur's 
nothiii* solid in the karkidge o' a ghost ?" 

'* Wagh !" he concluded, aj>parently resigning the attempt to 

obtain a solution of the strange physical phenomi.-non. " L?t the 

darned thing slide ! One o' two things it air boun' to be : eyther 

a bunn-M o' rags, or ole llarrv from h — 1 !" 

# * * " * # . • • 

A? he re-entered the hut, the blue light of morning stole 
in along with him. 

It wa» time to awaken Phelim, that he might take his turn by 
thv? bedside of the invalid. 

The Connemara man, now thoroughly restored to sobriety, and 
under the impression of having been a little direlict in his duty, 
was ready to undertake the task. 

The old hunter, before consigning his charge to the care of his 
unskilled successor, made a fresh dressing of the scratches — availing 
himself of the knowledge that a long experience had given him in 
the ])harmacop(ria of tlie forest. 

The nopal was near ; and its juice inspissated into the fresh 
wounds would not fail to ettect their speedy cure. 

Zeb knew that in twenty -four hours after its application, they 
would be in process of healing ; and in three days, entirely cica- 
trized. 

With this confidence— common to every denizen of the cactus- 



2S2 THE HXJO/LESS HOESEMAN. 

coTcFcil laii 1 01 Mexicj — lij felt defiant as to doctors; mnd if a 
score oi' tlieni coald have been procured upon the instant, he would 
not have summoned one. He was convinced that Maurice Ckrald 

was in no danger — at kast liOt from his wounds. 

There was a da:iger : but that was of a different kind. 

" Au' now, Mister Phetrlum." said he, on making a finish of 
his surgical operations : " we hev dud all thet kin be dud for the 
outard man. an* it air full time t-» Lok arter the innard. Te saj 
thur ain't nuthiii tu ect r" 

"Not .-•'» iiiucb as II purlaty, Mistbcr Stump. An' what^s worse 
thare's notbin' to dhrink — not a dhrap Hft in the whole cyabin." 

** Uurn vc, that's i/ur fault/* cried Stump, turning upon the 
Irishman with a savage scowl that showed equal regret at the 
annouiiceiiieiit. *' Eft hadn't a been fi>r you, thur war licker 
enough to a lasted till the young frllur got roun' agin. What's 
to be dud now ?*' 

*' Sowl, ]Mi.si]ier Stump ! yez Ije wrongiu' me althegither intirely. 
That same ytz are. 1 hadn't a taste exciptin what came out av 
the littli' Husk. It wus tbim Iiidyins that imptied the dimmy- 
Jan. Tratb was it." 

*' Wagb ! yc cudn'l a i:nt drunk ••n what ^\-ur contained i' the 
llask. i kiiuw yur durncd guts t«)0 well for thet. Ye must a had 
a good pull at tlie totlur, ti».»." 

** Be all the saints — " 

**Durn yur stinkin' saints I Dytm >'}>oso any man o' sense 
believt's in scch varmint as llii-m f 

•* Wal; 'taint nu use talkin' any more beuut it. YeVe sucked up 
the corn juice, an' thur's an end o't. Thur ain't no more to 
be bed 'ilhin twenty mile, an' we nmst go 'ithout.'* 

" 13e Jaysus. but it's bad !'* 

**Sliet u\} yur bead, durn ye, an' bear what I've got to say. 
We'll bev to <^«> 'itbout drinkin'; but thet air no reezun for 
Bturvin' <nirselves for want o' somttbin' to eet. The young fellur, 
I don't mistloubt, air by this time half sturved bisself. Thur's 
not much on bis ^tun^nuk, I rcek'n, though thur may be on his 
mind. As for mesilf, I'm jest hungry enough to eat coyoat; an* 
I ain't very sure IM turn away from turkey buzzart ; which, as I 
reek'n, wud be a wusser victual than coyoat. But we ain't obleeged 
to eet tnrkt y buzzart, wliar thur's a chance o' gettin' turkey ; an* 
tbet ain't so dewbious along the Alamo. You stay hyur, an' take 
care o' the young fellur, whiles I try up the crik, an' see if I kin 
kum aerosst a gobbler." 

** I'll (h) that, Misther Stump, an' no mistake. Be me trath — " 

•* Keej) yur palaver to yurself, till I've finished talkin' to ye." 

" Sowl ! I won't say a word." 

" Then don't, but lissen ! Thur*s somethin 'bout which I don't 
want ye to make any mistake. It air this. Ef there shed any- 
body stray this way dyurin my absince, yell let me know. Ye 
nmsn't lose a minnit o' time, but let me know." 



A SHOT AT THE DEVIL. 



" Shure I will— sowl, yis." 

" Wal, 1*11 depend on ye." 

" Trath, yez may ; — but how Misther Stump ? How am I to lit 
yez know, if youre beyant hearin* av me voice ? How thin ?" 

" Wal, I reck'n, I shan't need to go so fur as thet. Thur ought 
to be gobblers cloast by — at this time o' the momin. 

" An yit there moutent," continued Zeb, after reflecting a 
while. " Ye ain't got sech a thing as a gun in the shanty P A 
pistol 'ud do." 

** Nayther wan nor the tother. The masther tuk both away wid 
him, when he went last time to the sittlements. He must have 
lift them thare." 

" It air awk'ard. I mout not heer yur shout." 

Zeb, who had by this time passed through the doorway, again 
stopped to reflect. 

" Heigh !" he exclaimed, after a pause of six seconds. " I've 
got it. I've treed the eydee. Ye see my ole maar, tethered out 
thur on the grass ?" 

" Shure I do, Misther Stump. Av coorse I do." 

" Wal, ye see thet ere prickly cacktis plant growin' cloast to the 
edge o' the openin' ?" 

" Faith, yis." 

" Wal, that's sensible o' ye. Now hssen to what I say. Ye must 
keep a look out at the door ; an ef anybody kums up whiles I'm 
gone, run straight custrut for the cacktis, cut oft* one o' its branches 
— the thorniest ye kin see — an' stick it unner the maar's tail." 

" Mother av Moses ! For what div yez want me to do tliat ?" 

" Wal, I reck'n I'd better explain" said Zeb, reflectingly ; 
" otherwise ye'll be makin' a mess o' it." 

" Ye see, Pheelum, ef anybody interlopes durin' my absince I 
hed better be hyur. I ain't a goin' fiir ofl". But howsomediver near, 
I mout'nt hear yur screech; thurfore the maar's 'U do better. You 
clap the cacktis under her tail, cloast up to the fundament ; and ef 
she don't squeal loud enuf to be heern by me, then ye may kon- 
klude that this coon air eyther rubbed out, or hev both his lugs plug- 
ged wi picket pins. So, Pheelum ; do vou adzactlv as I've tolt ye." 

"Tlldoit, be Japers!" 

" Be sure now. Yur master's life may depend upon it." 

After delivering this last caution, the hunter shouldered his long 
rifle, and walked away from the hut. 

*' He's a cute owld chap that same," said Phelim as soon as Zeb 
was out of liearing. " I won<lher wliat he manes by the master 
bein' in danger IVom any wan comin' to the cyabin. He sed, 
that his life moight depend upon it ? Yis — he sed that." 

" He towlt me to kape a luk out. I suppose he maned me to 
begin at wance. I must go to the inthrance thin." 

So saying, he stepped outside the door ; and proceeded to make 
an ocular inspection of the paths by which the jaca]% might be 
approached. 



28 i THE BLADLXSS B0£9£3(AX. 

Afrc-r •.■oiii[fl-.'tiri^ this, ]i ? returned to tli^ threshold ; and there 
Vyyk Stan 1. in the atlit ud-e of one upon the wat«.h. 



CHAPTER JMI. 

SOlNDIXtr THE SIGNAL. 



Phelini'j? viijpl wa> of short duration. Searee ten minutes had he 
been ke^'jiing it. when he beeame warneil by the sound of a horse's 
hoof, tliat sonic one was eomini^ up the erei-k in the direction of 
the hut. 

His heart commencc-d hammering against his ribs. 

Tlie trees, standing thickly, liindered him from having a view of 
the approacliing horseman ; and he could not tell what sort of 
guest was about to j^resent himself at the jacale. But the lioof- 
stroke told him there was only one; and this it was that excited 
liis apprehension. He would have been less alarmed to hear the 
trami^ling of a trfKjj). Though well assun^l it could no longer be 
his master, he had no stomaeh for a second interview with the 
cavalier who su closely lesenibled him — in everything except the 
liead. 

His first im])iilse was to rush across the lawn, and carry out the 
sirheme entrusted to him by Zel). But the indecision springing 
from his fears kej^t him to his place — long enough to show him that 
they were groundless. The strange horseman had a head. 

**Shure an' that same he hez,'' said Plielim, as the latter rode 
out from aiiK^ng the trees, and halted on the edge of the opening ; 
" a raal hid, an' a purty face in front av it. An' yit it don't show 
fio plazed nayther. lie luks asif he'd jist buried his grandmother. 
Sowl ! what a quare young chap he is, wid them toiny mows- 
laches loike the down upon a two days' goslin ! O Lard! Luk at 
his little fut I Jie Jaysus^ he's a woman /" 

While the Irishman was making these observations — partly in 
thought, jmrtly in muttered speech — the equestrian advanced a 
])aee or two, and again i)aused. 

On a nearer view of his visitor, Phelim saw that he had cor- 
rectly guessed the sex; though the moustache, the manner of the 
mount, the hat, and serajxs might for the moment have misled a 
keener intellect than his of Connemara. 

It was a woman. It was Isidora. 

It was the first time that Phelim had set eyes on the Mexican 
maiden- -the lirst that hers had ever rested upon him. They 
were equally unknown to one another. 

He had spoken the tnith, when he said that her countenance 



SOUN'DINO THE SIGNAL. 285 

did not display pleasure. On the contrary, the expression upon it 
was sad — almost disconsolate. 

It had shown distrust, as she was riding under the shadow of the 
trees. Instead of brightening as she came out into the open ground, 
the look only changed to one of mingled surprise and disappointment. 

Neither could have been caused l)y her coming within sight of 
the jacaU. She knew of its existence. It was the goal of her 
journey. It must have been the singular personage standing in 
the doorway. Ho was not the man she expected to see there. 

In doubt she advanced to address him : 

" I may have made a mistake P" 8aid she, speaking in the best 
" Americana *' she could command. " Pardon mo, but — I — I 
thought — that Don Mauricio lived here." 

" Dan Marryshow, yez say ? Trath, no. Thare's nobody av 
that name lives heeur. Dan Marryshow ? Tharc was a man they 
called Marrish had a dwillin' not far out av Ballyballagh. I re- 
mimber the chap will, bekase he chated me wanst in a horse thrade. 
But his name wasn't Dan. No ; it was Pat. Pat Marrish was 
the name — divil burn him for a desaver !*' 

" Don Mauricio — Mor-recs — Mor-ees." 

" Oh ! Maurice ! Maybe ye'd be after spakin' av the masther — 
Misther Gerrald !" 

" Si— Si ! Senor Zyerral." 

" Shure, thin, an' if that's fwhat ye're afbher, Misther Gerrald 
diz dwill in this very cyabin — that is, whin he comes to divart 
hisself, by chasin' the wild horses. He only kapes it for a huntin' 
box, ye know. Arrah, now ; if yez cud only see the great big 
cyastle he lives in whin he's at home, in owld Ireland ; an' the 
bewtiful crayther that's now cryin' her swate blue eyes out, bekaso 
he won't go back thare. Sowl, if yez saw her !'^ 

Despite its patoisj Phelira's talk was too well understood by 
her to whom it was addressed. Jealousy is an apt translator. 
Something like a sigh escaped from Isidora, as he pronounced that 
little word " her." 

*' I don't wish to see ^er," was the quick rejoinder ; " but him 
you mention. Is he at home ? Is he inside ? " 

" Is he at home ? Thare now, that's comin' to the point — 
straight as a poike staff. An' supposin' I wuz to say yis, fwhat 
ud yez be afther wantin' wid him r" 

" I wish to see him." 

** Div yez ? Maybe now yc'll v»'ait till yez be asked. Ye'ro a 
purty crayther, not with stan din' that black strake upon yer lip. 
But the masther isn't in a condishun jist at this time to see any 
wan — unless it was the praste or a docthur. Yez cyant see him.' 

" But I wish very nmch to see him, senor." 

" Trath div yez. Ye've sayed that alriddy. But yez cyant, I 
till ye. It isn't Phaylim Onale ud deny wan av the fair six — 
espacially a purty black-eyed colleen loike yerself. But for all 
that yez cyant see the masther now." 



THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

" '\\Tiy can I not r" 

" Why cyant yez not r Will — thare's more than wan rayzon 
why yez cyant. In the first place, as I've towlt you, he's 
not in a condishun to resave company — the liss so av its hein' a 
lady.'* 

" But why, senor ? WhyT' 

" Bekase he's not dacently ib-issed. He's got nothin' on him 
hut his shirt — excejitin' the rags that Mist her Stump's jist tied 
all roun' him. Be japers I thareV enough av them to make him a 
whole shoot — coat, waiscoat, and throwsers — trath is thare." 

" Seiior, I don't understand you." 

" Yez don't r Shure an' I've spoke plain enough I Don't I till 
ye that the mastlu-r's in hid r" 

" In hed ! At this hour ? I hope there's nothing — " 

"Tlie matther wid him, yez wiir goin' to say? Alannah, that 
same is there — a powerful dah? the matther \\-id him — enough to 
kape him betwane the blankets for weeks to come." 

" Oh, sefior ! Do not tell me that he is ill r" 

"Don't I till ye! Arrah now me honey; fwhat ud be the use 
av consalin' it ? It ud di) it no good ; nayther cyan it do him 
any harm to spake about it? Yez moight say it afore his face, 
an' he wont eonthradict ye." 

" He is ill, then. O, sir, tell me, what is the nature of his 
illness — what has caused it r" 

" Shure an' I cyant answer only wan av thim interrogataries — 
the first yez hiv phut. His disaze pursades from some ugly 
tratement he's been resavin — the Lard only knows what, or 
who administhered it. He's got a bad lig ; an' bis skin luks as 
if he'd been tied up in a sacrk along wid a score av angrj" cats. 
Sowl! thare's not tbo brenth av yer purty little hand widout a 
scratch upon it. Worse than all, he's besoido hisself." 

" Beside hiniselfr" 

" Yis, that same. He's ravin' loike wan that had a dhrap too 
much overnight, an* thinks thare's the man wid the poker afther 
him. Be ma Iralb, I belave the very bist thing for him now ud he a 
thrifle av potheen — if wan cud only lay hands u]>on that same. But 
thare's not the smell av it in the eyabin. Both the dimmy-jan 
an' flask — . Arrah, now ; i/oa wouldn't be aftber bavin' a Httle 
flask Tij>on yer swate sill? Some av that agwardinty, as yer 
))eople call it. Trath, I've tasted worse stufl* than it. I'm shure 
a dhrink av it ud do the mastber ^ood. Spake the truth, misthress ! 
Hiv yez any about ye ?" 

** No, senor. 1 have nothing of the kind. I am sorry I have not." 

" Fa\igh ! The niore's the pity for poor Masther Maurice. It 
ud a done him a dale av good. Wil ; be must put up widout it." 

" But, senor ; surely I can see him ? " 

"Divil a bit. Iksides fwhat ud be tbe \ise r He wudn'fc know 
ye from his great grandmother. I till ye/, agane, he's been badly 
thrated, an 's now be.-oide hisself! '' 



SOUNDING THE SIGNAL. 287 

" All the more reason why I should see him. I may be of ser- 
vice. I owe him a debt — of — of — " 

" Oh ! yez be owin him somethin ? Yez want to pay it ? Faith, 
that makes it intirely different. But yez needn't see him for that. 
I*m his head man, an thransact all that sort av bizness for him. I 
cyant write myself, but 1*11 give ye a resate on the crass wid me 
mark — which is jist as good, among the lawyers. Yis, misthress; 
yez may pay the money over to me, an I promise ye the masther 
11 niver ax ye for it agano. Trath ! it'll come handy jist now, as 
we're upon the ave av a flittin, an may want it. So if yez have the 
pewther along wid ye, thare's pins, ink, an paper insoide the cya- 
bin. Say the word, an I'll giv ye the resate ! " 

" 'No — no — no ! I did not mean money. A debt of — of — grati- 
tude." 

"Faugh! only that. Sowl, it's eezy paid, an don't want a 
resate. But yez needn't return that sort av money now : for the 
masther woudn't be sinsible av fwhat ye wur savin. Whin ho 
comes to his sinses, I'll till him yez hiv been heeur, and wiped 
out the score." 

" Surely I can see him ? " 

"Shurelv now vez cyant." 

"Butlmust, seiior! " 

" Divil a must about it. I've been lift on guard, wid sthrict 
ordhers to lit no wan go inside." 

" They couldn't have been meant for me. I am his friend — ^the 
friend of Don Mauricio." 

" How is Phaylum Onale to know that ? For all yer purty face, 
yez moight be his didliest innemy. Be Japers ! its loike enough, 
now that I take a second luk at ye." 

" I must see him — I must — I'wiU — I shall! " 

As Isidora pronounced these words, she ilung herself out of the 
saddle, and advanced in the direction of the door. 

Her air of earnest determination combined with the fierce — 
scarce feminine — expression upon her countenance, convinced the 
Galwegian, that the contingency had arrived lor carrnng out the 
instructions left by Zeb Stump, and that he had been too long 
neglecting his cue. 

Turning hurriedly into the hut, he came out again, armed with 
a tomahawk ; and was about to rush past, when he was brought to 
a sudden stand, by seeing a pistol in the hands; of his lady visitor, 
pointed straight at his head ! 

** Ahajo la hn.clia ! " (Down with the hatclut), cried she. " Z/?- 
pero ! lift your aim to strike me, and it will bo for tbo hist time !' 

" Stroike ye, misthress ! Stroike you ! " blubbered the ci-devan' 
stable-boy, as soon as his terror permitted him to speak. ** Mother 
av the Lard ! I didn't mane the waypon for you at all, at all ! I'll 
sware it on the crass — or a whole stack av Bibles if yez say so. In 
trath misthress ; I didn't mane the tammy hauk for you ! " 

" Why have you bron<:rht it forth ? " inquired the lady, half i*us- 



288 THK HEADLKftS HOKSaMAN. 

pecfciii.^ tint sluha'l ma.li* a mistake*, an I lowiTing hor pistol as slie 
bjjani'j coiiviiK'O I of it. *• Wliy have you thus armed yourself? " 

'* A.S 1 live, only to ixeeuto theordhers, Fve resaved — only to cut 
a branch ofl* av the eyacktus yez see over yander, an phut it 
undh3r the tail av the owld mare. Shure yez won't object to inv 
doin'that?" * 

In hiT turn, tlij lady became silent —surprised at the singular 
pro]>osition. 

The (M individual she saw bclbre her, could not mean mischief. 
His lookii, attitude, and j^esturos wero grotesque, rjither than 
threatening; provoeative of mirth — not fear, or indignation. 

*' Silincc gives consint. Thank ye," said Phclim, as, no longer in 
fear of being shot down in his tracks, he ran straight across the 
lawn, ami carrii.'d out to tlu* letter, the parting injunctions of Zeb 
Stum]). 

The Mexican maiden hilhtrlo held silent by s\irprise, remained 
Eo, on j)erceiving tbe absolute idleness of speech. 

Further conversation was out of tli* (piestion. What with the 
screaming of the mare — continuous from the moment the spinous 
crupper was inserted under her tail — the loud trampling of her 
hoofs as she " cavorted " over the turf — the dismal howling of the 
hound — and the responsive cries of the wild forest denizens — bird?, 
beasts, insects, and rej»tiles — only the voice of a Stentor could 
have been heard ! 

AVhat could be the purpose of the strange proceeding? How 
was it to terminate? 

Isidora looked on in sih'ut astonishment. She could do nothing 
else. So long as th;; infernal fracas ccmtinued, there was no chance 
to elicit an explanation from the queer creature wh<» had caused it. 

He bad returned to the d<»or of the jaeale ; and once more taken 
his stand ui)on tbe threshold : where he stood, with the tranquil 
satisfied air of an actor who has eouqileted the performance of his 
part in the play, and feels fre? to range him.-;elf among the specta- 
tors ! 



289 



CHAl^EIl L^^LII. 

RECOHJKCi FBOM A KI86. 

For full ten minutos was the ViW (shonis kept up, the mare all 
the time squealing like a stuck pig ; while the dog responded in a 
scries of lugubrious howls, that rovtTberated along the cliffs on 
both sides of the creek. 

To the distance of a mile might the stninds have betni heard ; 
and as Zeb Stump was not likely to hv so far from the hut, he 
woidd be certain to hear them. 

Convinced of this, and that the hunter would soon respond to 
the signal he had himself arranged, Phelim stood H(iuare upon the 
threshold, in hopes that the lady visitor woidd stay outside — at 
least, until he should be relieved of the responsibility of admitting 
her. 

Notwithstanding her earnest jn'otestations of amity, he was 
still suspicious of some treasonable intention towards his master ; 
else whv should Zeb have been so i)aii,icular about being summoned 
back ? \ 

Of liimsflf, he had abandoned the idea of offering resistance. 
That shining pistol, still before his eyes, had cured him of all 
inclination for a quarrel with the strange equestrian ; and so far as 
the Connemara man was concerned, she might have gone unresisted 
inside. 

JJut there was another from Connemara, who appeared more 
detennined to dispute her ])a.ssage to the hut — tme whom a whole 
battery of great guns would not liave deterred from protecting its 
owner. This was Tara. 

The staghound was not acting as if under the excitement of a 
mere senseless alarm. Mingling with his ])rolonged sonorous 
" gowl " could be heard in repeated intormptions a quick sharp 
bark, that denoted anger. He had witnessed the attitude of the 
intruder — its apparent hostility — and drawdng his deductions, had 
taken stand directly in i'ront of Phelim and the door, with the 
evident determinati«»n that neither should be reached except over 
his own body, and after running the gauntlet of his formidable 
incisors. 

Isidora showed no intention of undertaking the risk. She had 
none. Asttmishment was, for the time, the sole feeling that 
possessed her. 

She remained transiixed to the spot, without attempting to sar 
a word. 

She stood expectingly. To such an eccentric prelude there 
should be a corresponding finale. Perplexed, but patiently, she 
awaited it. 



THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

Of her late alarm there was nothing left. 'V\Tiat she saw was 
too ludicrous to allow of apprehension ; though it was also too 
incomprehensible to elicit laughter. 

In the mien of the man, who had so oddly comports liim- 
self, there was no sign of mirth. If anything, a show of seriousness, 
oddly contrasting with the comical act he liad committed ; and 
which plainly proclaimed that he had not been treating her to a 
joke. 

The ex])ression of helpless perpU'ikity that had become fixed upon 
her features, eontmued there; until a tall man, wearing a fa4ed 
blanket coat, and carrying a six-foot riile, was seen striding among 
the tree-tnmks, at the rate of ten miles to the hour. 

He was making direct for the jacale. 

At sight of the new comer her countenance underwent a change. 
There was now perceptible upon it a shade of apprehension ; and 
the little pistol was clutched with renewed nenx* b}- the delicate 
hand that still continued to hold it. 

The act was partly precautionary, partly mechanical. Nor* was 
it unnatural, in view of the formidable-looking personage who was 
approaching, and the earnest (excited manner with which he was 
hurrying forward to the hut. 

All this became altered, as he advanced into the open ground, 
and suddenly stopped on its edge ; a look of surprise quite as great 
as that upon the countenance of the lady, supplanting his earnest 
glances. 

Some exclamatory phrases were sent through his teeth, unintel- 
ligible in the tumult still continuing, though the gcstui'e that 
accompanied them seemed to proclaim them of a character any- 
thing but gentle. 

On giving utterance to them, he turned to one side; strode 
rapidly towards the screaming mare ; and, laying hold of her tail — 
which no living man save himself would have dared to do — he 
released her from the torments she had been so long enduring. 

Silence was instantly restored ; since the mare, abandoned by her 
fellow choristers, as they became accustomed to her wild neighs, 
had be<'n, for some time, keeping up the solo by herself. 

The lady was not yet enlightened. Her astonishment continued ; 
though a side glance given to the droll individual in the doorway 
told her, that he had successfully accomplished some scheme with 
which he had been entrusted. 

Phelim's look of satisfaction was of shoH continuance. It 
vanished, as Zeb Stump, having effected the deliverance of the 
tortured t^uadruped, faced round to the hut — as he did so, sho\ving 
a cloud upon the corrugations of his countenance, darkly ominous 
of an angry storm. 

Even the presence of beauty did not hinder it from bursting. 

"Durn, an' dog-gone ye, for a Irish eedyit! Air this what 
ye've brought me back for ! An' jest as I wur takin* sight on a 
turkey, not less *n thirty poun* weight, I reck'n ; skeeart afore I 



RECOILINO FROM A KISS. 291 

ked touch trigger, wi' the skreek o' thet cussed critter o* a maar. 
D — d little chance for breakfust now." 

**But, Misther Stump, didn't yez till me to do it? Ye sid if 
any wan showld come to the cjabin — " 

" Bah ! ye fool ! Ye don't serpose I meened weemcn, did ye ?" 

** Trath ! I didn't think it wus wan, whin she furst presented 
hersilf. Yez showld a seen the way she rid up — sittin' astraddle 
on her horse." 

" What matter it, how she wur sittin' ! Hain't ye seed thet afore, 
ye greenhorn ? It's thur usooal way 'mong these hj'ur Mexikin 
sheemales. Ye're more o' a woman than she air, I guess; an' 
twenty times more o' a fool. Thet I'm sartint o'. I know her a 
leetle by sight, an' somethin' more by reeport. What hev fetched 
the critter hyur ain't so difeequilt to comprehend ; tho' it may be 
to git it out o' her, seein' as she kin only talk thet thur Mexikin 
lingo ; the which this chile can't, nor wudn't ef he kud." 

" Sowl, Misther Stump ! yez be mistaken. She spakes English 
too. Don't yez, misthress ?" 

" Little Inglees," returned the Mexican, who up to this time had 
remained listening. " Inglees poco pocito,^^ 

"0 — ah !" exclaimed Zeb, slightly abashed at what he had been 
saying. ** I beg your pardin, saynoritta. Ye kin hahla a bit o' 
Amerikin, kin ye ? Moocho bono — so much the betterer. Ye'U 
be able to tell me what ye mout be a wantin' out hyur. Ye hain't 
lost yur way, hev ye ? " 

" No, seiior," was the reply, after a pause. 

" In tliat case, ye know whar ye air ? " 

" Si, 8enor — si — yes, of Doh Mauricio Zyerral, this tho — ^house ?" 

" Thet air the name, near as a Mexikin mouth kin make it, I 
reck'n. 'Tain't much o' a house ; but it air his'n. Preehaps ye want 
to see the master o't ? " 

** O, seiior — ^^'ees — that is for why I here am— por esta yo 90y 
aqtiiy 

" Wal ; I reck'n, thur kin be no objecshun to yur seein' him. 
Yur intonshuns ain't noways hostile to the young fellur, I kalklate. 
But thur ain't much good in yur talkin' to him now. He won't know 
ye from a side o' sole-leather." 

" lie is ill ? Has met with some misfortune ? El giiero has 
said so." 

" Yis. I towlt her that," interposed Phelim, whose carroty hair 
had earned for him the appellation " El giiero." 

" Sartin," answered Zeb. " lie air wounded a bit ; an jest now 
a leetle dulleerious. I reck'n it ain't o' much consekwence. He'll 
be hisself agin soon's the ravin fit's gone off o' him." 

" O, sir ! can I be his nurse till then ? Par amor dios ! Let 
me enter, and watch over him ? I am his friend — un amigo muy 
afflcionado,^^ 

" Wal ; I don't .see as thur^s any harm in it. Weemen makes 
the best o' nusses I've heem say ; tho', for meself, I hain't bed 



292 THE HEADLESS IIOBSEMAN. 

much chance o* try in cm sincst I kivered up my 'ole gurl unnertho 
sods o' Massi8sij)i / Ef yo want to take a spell by the side 9' the young 
fellur, yeVe welkim — seein yeVe his friend. Ye kin look arter him, 
till we git back, an see thet lie don't tumniel out o' the bed, or claw 
off them thur bandidges, IVe tied roun him. 

" Trust nie, good sir, I shall take every care of him. But tell 
me wliat has caused it ? The Indians ? No, they are not near ? 
Has there been a quarrel with any one?" 

" In thet, siiynoritta ; ye're beout a^ wise as I air mesclf. Thur*8 
been a quarrel wi* coyoats ; but that ain't what's gin him the ugly 
knee. I foun' him yesterday, clost upon sun-down, in the chap- 
paral beyont. When we kim upon him, he war up to his waist in 
the water o' a crik as runs through thur, jest beout to be attakted 
by one o' them spotty critters yur people call tigers. Wal, I 
relieved him o' that bit o' danger ; but what happened afore air a 
mystery to me. The young fellur had tuk leeve o' his senses, an' 
ked gie no account o' himself. He hain't rekivered them yet ; an, 
thurfore, we must wait till he do." 

** But you are sure, sir, he is not badly injured ? His wounds — 
they are not dangerous r" 

** No danger whatsomediver. Nuthin' beyont a bit o' a fever, or 
maybe a touch o' the agey, when that goes off 0' him. As for the 
wounds, they're only a wheen o' scratches. When the wanderin* 
hev gone out o' his senses, he'll soon kum roun, I reck'n. In ft 
week's time, ye'U see him as strong as a buck." 

" Oh ! I shall nurse him tenderly !" 

" Wal, that's very kind o' you ; but — but — " 

Zeb hesitated, as a qui'er thought came before his mind. It led 
to a train of reflections kept to himself. They were these : 

" This air the same she. as sent them kickshaws to the tavern o* 
Hough an' Heady. Thet she air in love wi' the young fellur is 
clur as Massissipi nmd — in love wi' him to the eends o' her toe nails. 
So's the t other. But it air equally clur that he 's thinkin' o' the 
tother, an* not o' her. Now ef she hears him talk about tother, as 
he hev bt'en a doin' all o* the night, thur'U be a putty consid'able 
rumpus i-iz inside o' her busom. Poor thing ! i pity her. She 
ain't a bad sort. But the Irish — Irish tho' he bo— can't belong to 
both ; an' I know he freezes to the critter from the States. It air 
diu-ned awkurd. Better ef I ked pursuadc her not to go near 
him — leastwise till he gets over ravin' about Lewaze. 

But, miss," he continued, addressing himself to the Mexican, who 
during his long string of reflections had stood impiCtiently silent, 
" don't ye think yc'd better ride home agin ; an' kum back to see 
him arter he gits well. He won't know ye, as I've sayed j an' it 
would be no use yur stayin', since he ain't in any danger o* makin a 
die of it." 

" No matter, tliat he may not know me. I should tend him all 
the same. He may need some things — which I can send, and pro- 
cure for him." 



RECOILING FROM A KISS. 

" Ef ye'ro boun' to stay then," rejoined Zeb, relentingly, as if 
some new thought w«i8 causing him to consent, " I won't interfere 
to say, no. But don't you mind what he'll be palaverin' about. 
Ye may hear some queer talk out o* him, beout a man bein' 
murdered, an the like. That's natial for any one as is dulleerious. 
Don't be skeeart at it. Beside, ye may hear him talkin' a deal 
about a woman, as he's got upon his mind." 

" A woman !'' 

" Jest so. Ye'U hear him make mention o' her name." 

" Her name ! Senor, what name r" 

** Wal, it air the name o' his sister, I reck'n. Fact, I'm sure o' 
it bein' his sister." 

*' Oh ! Misther Stumj). If ycz be spakin' av Masther Maiirice — " 

" Shut u]), ye durned fool ! What is't to 3'ou what I'm speakin* 
beout ? You can't \niiioi-stan sech things. Kum along !" he con- 
tinued, moving olf, and motioning the Connemara man to follow 
him. "I want ye a leetle way wi' me. I killed a rattle as I wur 
goin' up the crik, an' left it thur. Kum you, an' toat it back 
to the shanty hyur, lest some varmint may make away wi' it; an* 
lest, ai-ter all, I moutn't strike turkey «gin." 

" A rattle. I)iv ycz mane a rattle-snake f " 

" An' what shed 1 mean 'r" 

" Shure, Misther Stump, yez wu(bi*t ate a snake. Lard ! wudn*t 
it poison yez r" 

" Pisen be durned ! Didn't I cut the j)isen out, soon 's I killed 
the critter, by cuttin' oft' o' its headr" 

" Trath ! an' for all that, I wudn't ate a morsel av it, if I was 
starvin'. " 

" Sturve, an' be dunied to ye I Who axes ye to eet it. I only want 
ye to toat it home. Kum then, an' do as I tell ye ; or dog-goned, ef 
I don't make ye eet the head o' the reptile,--— pisen, angs an all !" 

** Be japers, Misther Stump, I didn't mane to disobey you at 
all — at all. Shure its Phaylim O'Nale that's reddy to do your 
biddin' anyhow. I'm wid ye for fwhativer yez want; aven to 
swallowin the snake whole. Saint Pathriek forgive me !" 

" Saint Patrick be durned ! Kum along !" 

Phehm made no farther remonstrance; but, striking into the 
tracks of the backswoodsman, followed him thro\igh the wood. 

Isidora entered the hut ; advanced towards the invalid reclining 
upon his couch ; with fierce fondness kissed his fevered brow; 
fonder and Hercer kissed his unconscious lij>s; and then recoiled 
from them, as if she had been stung by a scoqnon ! 

Worse tlian scoqnon's sting was that which had caused her to 
spring back. 

And yet 'twas but a word — a little word— of only two syllables! 

There was nothing strange in ibis. Oft, on (me word — that 
'Bofb short syllable " Yes" — rests the hai)piness of a life ; wliile oft, 
too oft, the harsher negative is the prelude to a world of woe ! 



294 



CHAPTER LTX. 

ANOTHEK WHO CANNOT RKST. 



A dark daj for Louise Poiudextcr — ^perhaps the darkest in the 
calendar of her life — was that in which she released Don Miguel 
I>iaz from the lazo. 

Sorrow for a brother's loss, with fears for a lover's safety, were 
yesterday commingled in the cup. To-day it was further embittered 
by the blackest passion of all — jealousy. Grief — fear — jealousy — 
what must be the state of the soul in which these emotions are 
coexistent ? A tumult of terrible imaginings. 

So was it in the bosom of Louise Poindexter after deciphering 
the epistle which contained written evidence of her lover's dis- 
loyalty. 

True, the writing came not from him ; uor was the proof con- 
clusive. 

But in the first burst of her frenzied rage, the young Creole 
did not reason thus. In the wording of the letter there was 
strong presumption, that the relationship between Maurice Gerald 
and the Mexican was of a more affectionate character than he had 
represented it to be — that he had, in fact, been practising a 
deception. 

Why should that woman write to him in such free strain — 
giving bold, almost unfcminine, license to her admiration of liis 
eyes : ** lE^os ojoa tan lindos y tan espresivos f'* 

These were no phrases of friendship ; but the expressions of a 
prurient i)assion. As such only coidd the Creole undei*stand them : 
since they were but a paraphrase of her own feelings. 

And then there was the appointment itself — solicited, it is true, 
in the sha])e of a re<iuest. But this was mere courtesy — the 
coquetry of an a('ct)mj>lisbed inattresse. Moreover, the tone of 
sohcitation was abandoned towards the close of the epistle ; which 
terminated in a positive command: ** Come, sir! come!" 

Something more than jealousy was aroused by the reading of 
this. A spirit of revenge seemed to dictate the gesture that fol- 
lowed, — and tlu; stray sheet was crushed between the aristocratic 
fingers into which it had fallen. 

" Ah, me !" reflected she, in the acerbity of her soul, ** I see 
it all now. 'Tis not the lirst time he has answered a similar 
summons ; not the first they have met on that same ground, 
* the hill above my uncle's house' — slightly described, but well 
understood — oft visited before," 

Soon the spirit of vengeance gave place to a profound despair. 
Her heart had its emblem in the piece of paper that lay at her 
feet upon the floor — like it, crushed and ruined. 



ANOTHEB WHO CANNOT REST. 295 

For a time she surrendered herself to sad meditation. Wild 
emotions passed tbrough her mind, suggesting wild resolves. 
Among others she thought of her beloved Louisiana — of going 
back there to bury her secret sorrow in the cloisters of the SaerS 
C(£ur. Had the Creole convent been near, in that hour of 
deep dosi)ondency, she would, in all probability, have forsaken the 
paternal home, and sought an asylum Avithin its sacred walls. 

In very truth was it the darkest day of her existence. 

After long hours of wretchedness her spirit became calmer, 
while her thoughts returned to a more rational tone. The letter 
was re-read ; its contents submitted to careful consideration. 

There was still a hope — the hope that, after all, Maurice Gkrald 
might ?iot be in the Settlement. 

It was at best but a faint ray. Surely slie should know — 
she who had penned the appointment, and spoken so confidentlj 
of his keeping it? Still, as promisee!, he might have gone away; 
and upon this supposition hinged that hope, now scintillating 
like a star through the obscurity of the hour. 

It was a delicate matter to make direct inquiries about — to one 
in the position of Louise Poindexter. But no other course ap- 
peared open to her ; and as the shadows of twilight shrouded the 
gi'ass-covered square of the village, she was seen upon her spotted 
palfrey, riding silently through the streets, and reining up in front 
of the hotel — on the same spot occupied but a few hours before by 
the gray steed of Isidora ! 

As the men of the place were all absent — some on the track of 
the assassin, others ui>on the trail of the Comanche, Oberdoffer 
was tlie only witness of her indiscretion. But he knew it not as 
such. It was but natural that the sister of the murdered man 
should bo anxious to obtain news ; and so did he construe the 
motive for the interrogatories addressed to him. 

Little did the stolid German suspect the satisfaction which his 
answers at first gave to his fair questioner ; much less the chagrin 
afterwards caused by that bit of infonnation volunteered by him- 
self, and which abruptly terminated the dialogue between him and 
his visitor. 

On hearing she was not the first of her sex who had that day 
made inquiries respecting Maurice tlu^ nmstanger, Louise Poin- 
dexter rode back to Casa del Corvo, with a heart writhing under 
fresh laceration. 

A niglit was spent in the agony of unrest — sleep only obtained 
in short snatches, and amidst the phantasmagoria of dreamland. 

Though the morning restored not her tranquillity, it brought 
with it a resolve, stem, daring, almost reckless. 

It was, at least, daring, for Louise Poindexter to ride to the 
Alamo alone ; and this was her deteiini nation. 

There was no one to stay her — none to say nay. The searchers 
out all night had not yet returned. No report had come back to 
Casa del Corvo. She was sole mistress of the mansion, as of her 



296 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAX. 

own actions — sole possessor of the motive tliat Avas impelling her 
to this bold step. 

But it may be easily jessed. Hers was not a spirit to pat up 
with mere su»5picion. Even love, that tames the strongest, had not 
yet reduced it to that state of helpless submission. Unsatisfied 
it could no longer exist; and hence her resolve to seek satisfaction. 

She might lind peace — she might chance upon ruin. Even 
the last appeared preferable to the agony of uncertainty. 

How like to the reasoning of her rival ! 

It would have been idle to dissuade her, had there l)een any one 
to do it. It is do\ibtfiil even if parental authority could at that mo- 
ment have prevented lier from carrying out her pur^Kwe. Talk to the 
tigress when frenzied by a similar feeling. With a love unliallowed, 
the will of the Egyptian queen was not more imperious than is 
that of the American Creole, when stirreil by its hohest passion. 
It acknowledges no right of contradiction — regards no obstruction 
save death. 

It is a spirit rare upon earth. In its tranquil state, soft as the 
rays of the Aurora — pure as the prayer of a child ; but when stirred 
by love, — or rather by its too constant concomitant — it becomes 
proud and perilous as the light of Lucifer! 

Of this spirit Louise Poindoxter was the truest type. A^ere 
love was the lure, to wish was to have, or perish in the attempt to 
obtain. Jealousy resting upon doubt was neither possible to her 
nature, or compatible with her existence. She must find proofs 
to destroy, or confirm it — proofs stronger than those already sup- 
plied by the contents of the strayed epistle, which, after all, were 
only presumptive. 

Armed with this, she was in a position to seek them; and 
they were to be sought upon the Alamo. 

****** 

The first hour of sunrise saw her in the saddle, riding out from 
the enclosures of Casa del Corvo, and taking a trail across the 
prairie already kno^vn to her. 

On passing many a spot, endeared to her — sacred by some of the 
sweetest souvenirs of her life — her thoughts expeiienced more than 
one revulsion. 

These were moments when she forgot the motive that originally 
impelled her to the journey — when she thought only of reaching 
the man she loved, to rescue him from enemies that might be 
around him! 

Ah ! these moments — despite the ai)prehension for her lover's 
safety — were happy, when compared with those devoted to the far 
more painful contemplation of his treachery. 

From the point of starting to that of her destination, it was 
twenty' miles. It might seem a journey, to one used to Euro- 
pean travelling — that is in the saddle. To the prairie equestrian 
it is a ride of scarce two hours - quick as a scurry across country, 
after a stag or fox. 



ANOTHER WHO CANNOT RKST. 297 

Even with an unwilling steed it is not tedious ; but with that 
lithe -limbed, ocellated creature, Luna, who went willingly towards 
her prairie home, it was soon over — too soon, perhaps, for the hap- 
piness of her rider. 

Wretched as Louise Poin dexter may have felt before, her misery 
had scarce reached the point of despair. Through her sadness 
there still shone a scintillation of hope. 

It was extinguished as she set foot upon the thi*eshold of the 
jaccdc; and the quick suppressed scream that came from her lips, 
was like the last utterance of a heart parting in twain. 

TJiere was a woman tcUhin the hut I 

From the lips of this woman an exclamation had already es- 
caped, to which her own might have appeared an echo — so closely 
did the one follow the other — so alike were they in anguish. 

Like ^ second echo, still more intensified, was the cry from 
Isidora; as turning, she saw in the doorway that woman, whose 
name had just been pronounced — the "Louise" so fervently praised, 
so fondly remembered, amidst the vagaries of a distempered brain. 

To the young Creole tlie case was clear — ^painfully clear. She 
saw before her the writer of that letter of appointment — which, 
after all, had hern Jcttpt, In the strife, whose sounds had indistinctly 
reached her, there may have been a third party — Maurice Gerald ? 
That would account for the condition in which she now saw him ; 
for she was far enough inside the hut to have a view of the invalid 
upon his couch. 

Yes ; it was the writer of that bold epistle, who had called 
Maurice Gerald "querido;" — ^who had praised his eyes — who had 
commanded him to come to her side ; and who was now by his 
side, tending him with a solicitude that proclaimed her his ! Ah ! 
the thought was too painful to be symbolized in speech. 

Equally clear were the conclusions of Isidora — equally agonizing. 
She already knew that she was supplanted. She had been listen- 
ing too long to the involuntary speeches that told her so, to have 
any doubt as to their sinccnty. On the door-step stood the 
woman who had succeeded her ! 

Face to face, with flashing eyes, their bosoms rising and falling 
as if under one impulse — both distraught with the same dire 
thought — the two stood eyeing each other. 

Alike in love with the same man — alike jealous — they were 
alongside the object of their bm*ning passion unconscious of the 
presence of either ! 

Each believed the other successful: for Louise had not heard 
the words, that would have given her comfort — those words yet 
ringing in the ears, and torturing the soul, of Isidora ! 

It was an attitude of silent hostility — all the more terrible for 
its silence. Not a word was exchanged between them. Neither 
deigned to ask explanation of the other; neither needed it. 
There are occasions when speech is superfluous, and both intui- 
tively felt that this was one. It was a mutual encoimter of fell 
^ o2 



298 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAX. 

passions; that found expression only in the flashing of eyes, and the 
scornful curling of lips. 

Only for an instant was the attitude ke))t up. In fact, the 
whole sciine, inside, scarce occupied a score of seconds. 

It ended hy Louise INnndexter turning round upon the door- 
step, and gliding off to regain her saddle. The hut of Maurice 
Gerald was no place for her ! 

Isidora too came out, almost treading upon the skirt of the 
other's dress. The same thought was in her heart — perhaj)s more 
emphaticallv felt. The hut of Maurice Gerald was no place for 
her! 

Both seemed equally intent on departure — alike resolved on 
forsaking the spot, that had witnessed the desolation of their 
hearts. 

The gray horse stood nearest — the mustang farther out. Isi- 
dora was the first to mount — the first to move off; hut as she 
passed, her rival had also got into the saddle, and was holding 
the ready rein. 

Glances were again interchanged — neither triumi)hant, but 
neither expressing forgiveness. That of the Creole was a strange 
mixture of sadness, anger, and surprise; while the last look of 
Isidora, that accompanied a spiteful ^^carajol" — a fearful phrase 
from female li])s — was such as the Ephesian goddess may have 
given to Athenaia, after the award of the apple. 



C II APT Ell LX. 

A FAIR IXFOKMKK. 

If things ])hysical may he com])ared with things moral, no greater 
contrast could have been found, than the bright heavens beaming 
over the Alamo, and the black thoughts in the bosom of Isidora, 
as she hastened away from thajacale. Her heart was a focus of fiery 
passions, revenge ])redominating over all. 

In this there was a sort of demoniac pleasure, that hindered her 
from giving way to despair ; otherwise she might have sunk under 
the weight of her woe. 

With gloomy thoughts she rides under the shadow of the trees. 
They are not less gloomy, as she gazes up the gorge, and sees the 
blue sky smiling cheerfully above her. Its cheei'fulness seems 
meant but to mock her ! 

She pauses before making the ascent. She has reined up under 
the umbrageous cypress — fit canopy for a sorrowing heart. Its 
sombre shade appears more desirable than the sunlight above. 

It is not this that has caused her to pull up. There is a thought 



A F.UK INFOBMER. 299 

in her soul darker than the shadow of the cypress. It is evinced 
by her clouded brow ; by her black eyebrows contracted over her 
black flashing eyes ; above all, by an expression of fierceness in the 
contrast of her white teeth gleaming under the inoustached lip. 

All that is good of woman, except beauty, seems to have forsaken 
— all that is bad, except ugliness, to have taken possession of her ! 

She has paused at the prompting of a demon — ^^^^th an infernal 
purpose half formed in her mind. Her muttered speeches proclum 
it. 

" I should have killed her upon the s])ot I Shall I go back, and 
dare her to deadly strife?" 

*' If I killed her, what would it avail ? It could not win me hack 
Jiis heart — lost, lost, without hope! Yes; those words were from 
the secret dt»pths of his soul ; where her iniage alone has found an 
abiding place! Oh! there is no hope for me! 

" 'Tis he who should die; he who has caused my ruin. If I kill 
him ? Ah, then ; what would life be to me ? From that hour an 
endless anguish! 

"Oh! it is anguish now! I cannot endure it. I can think of 
no solace — if not in revenge. Not only she, he also — both must 
die! 

**But not yet — not till he know, by whose hand it is done. 
Oh! he shall feel his punishment, and know whence it comes. 
Mother of God, strengthen me to take vengeance !" 

She lances the flank of her horse, and spurs him, up the slope of 
the ravine. 

On reaching the upper plain, she does not stop — even for the 
animal to breathe itself — but goes on at a reckless gait, and in a 
direction that appears undetermined. Neither hand nor voice are 
exerted in the guidance of her steed— -only the spur to lu-ge him on. 

Left to himself, he returns in the track b}' which he came. It 
leads to the Leona. Is it the way he is wanted to go ? 

His rider seems neither to know nor care. She sits in the saddle, 
as though she were part of it ; with head bent down, in the attitude 
of one absorbed in a profound reverie, unconscious of outward things 
—even of the rude pace at which she is riding ! She does not ob- 
serve that black cohort close by ; until warned of its proximity by 
the snorting of her steed, that suddenly comes to a stand. 

She sees a cahallada out upon the open praine! 

Indians? No. White men — less by their colour, than the 
caparison of their horses, and their style of equitation. Their 
beards, too, show it ; but not their skins, discoloured by the " stoor " 
of the parched plain. 

" Los Tejanos! " is the muttered exclamation, as she becomes 
confirmed in regard to their nationality. 

"A troop of their rangers scouring the country for Comanches, I 
suppose? The Indians are not here ? If I've heard aright at the 
Settlement, they should be far on the other side." 

Without any strong reason for shunning them, the Mexican 



800 THE HBADLESS HORSEMAN. 

maiden lias no desire to encounter "Los Tejanos." They are nothings 
to bor, or Iut purposes ; and, at any other time, she would not go 
out of their way. But in this hour of her wretchedness, she does 
not wish to run the gauntlet of their questionings, nor become the 
butt of their curiosity. 

It is possible to avoid them. She is yet among the bushes. They 
do not appear to have ob8er>'ed her. By turning short roimd, and 
diving back into the chapparal, she may yet shun being seen. 

She is about to do so, when the design is frustrated by the neigh- 
ing of her horse. A score of theirs respond to him ; and he is seen, 
along with his rider. 

It might be still possible for her to escai>e the encounter, if so 
inclined. She would be certain of being pursued, but not so sure 
of being overtaken — especially among the winding ways of the 
chapparal, well known to her. 

At first she is so ineline<l ; and completes the turning of her 
steed. Almost in the same instant, she reins round again ; and faces 
the phalanx of horsemen, already in full gallop towards her. 

Her muttered words proclaim a purpose in this sudden change 
of tactics. 

" Bangers — no ! Too well dressed for those ragged vagabundo9 f 
Must be the i)arty of * searchers,' of which l*ve heard — led by the 

father of Yes— yes it is they. Ay Dios ! here is a chance 

of revenge, and without my seeking it ; God wills it to be so 1" 

Instead of turning back among the bushes, she rides out into the 
open ground ; and with an air of bold determination advances to- 
wards the horsemen, now near. 

She pulls up, and awaits t lieii- appror.ch ; a Llaek thought in her 
bosom. 

In another minute she is in their midst — the mounted circle 
close drawn around her. 

There are a hundred horsemen, oddly armed, grotesquely attired 
— uniform only in the coating of clay-coloured dust which adheres 
to their habiliments, and the stem seriousness obser\'able in the 
bearing of all ; scarce relieved by a slight show of curiosity. 

Though it is an entourage to cause trembling — especially in a 
woman — Isidora docs not betray it. She is not in the least alarmed. 
She anticipates no danger from those who have so unceremoniously 
surrounded her. Some of them she knows by sight ; though not 
the man of more than middle age, who appears to be their leader, 
and who confronts, to (question her. 

But she knows him otherwise. Instinct tells her he is the fa- 
ther of the murdered man— of the woman, she may wish to see 
slain, but assuredly, shamed. 

Oh ! what an o])portunity ! 

" Can you speak French, mademoiselle ?*' asks Woodley Poin- 
doxter, addressing her in this tongue — hi the belief that it may give 
him a better chance of being understood. 

" Speak better Inglees — veiy Httle, sir.'* 



A FAIB INfOBMBB. 801 

'* Oh ! English. So much the better for us. Tell me, miss ; have 
you seen anybody out here — ^that is — ^have you met any one, riding 
about, or camped, or halted anywhere ? " 

Isidorn appears to reflect, or hesitate, before making reply. 

The planter pursues the interrogative, with such |)olitene8s as 
the circmnstances admit. 

" May I ask where you live ?" 

" On the Kio Grande, scfior ?" 

" Have you come direct from there f* 

" Xo ; from the Leona." 

" From the Lcona !" 

" It's the niece of old Martinez," inteq^oses one of the party. 
" His plantation joins yours, Mister Poindextor." 

" Si — yes — true that. Sohrina — niece of Don Silvio Martinez. 
To 8oyr 

" TluMi you've come from his place, direct ? Pardon me for 
appearing rude. I assure you, miss, we are not questioning you 
out of any idle curiosity, or impertinence. We have serious 
reasons — more than serious : they are solemn." 

*' From the Hacienda Martinez direct," answers Isidora, without 
ap])caring to notice the last remark. " Two hoiurs ago — unpocito 
mas — my uncle's house I leave." 

" Then, no doubt, you have heard that there has been a — ^murder 
— committed r" 

" Si, senor. Yesterday at uncle Silvio's it was told." 

" But to-day — when you left — was there any fresh news in the 
Settlement? We've had word from there; but not so late as you 
may bring. Have you heard anything, miss?" 

" That people were gone after the asesinado. Your party, 
senor?" 

" Yes — yes — it meant us, no doubt. You heard nothing more P" 

"Oh, yes; something very strange, senores; so strange, you 
may think I am jesting." 

"What is it?" inquire a score of voices in quick simultaneity; 
while the eyes of all turn with eager interest towards the fair 
equestrian. 

" There is a story of one being seen without a head — on horse- 
back — out here too. Volga me Dios ! we must now be near the 
place ? It was by the Nueces — not far from the ford — where the 
road crosses for the Rio Grande. So the vaqueros said." 

" Oh ; some vacpicros have seen it ?" 

" Si, senores ; three of them will swear to baring witnessed the 
spectacle." 

Isidora is a little surprised at the moderate excitement which 
such a strange story causes among the " Tejanos." There is an 
exhibition of interest, but no astonishment. A voice explains : 

"We've seen it too — ^that. headless horseman — at a distance. 
Did your vaqueros get close enough to know what it was ?" 

"Santissima! no." 



802 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

*• Can you tell us, miss r" 

" I ? Not I. I only heard of it, as I*ve said. What it may 
be, quien sabe /"' 

There is an intor\'al of silence, durinjr which all appear to reflect 
on what they have heard. 

The planter interruj)ts it, by a recurrence to his ori^oal 
interrogatory- 

" Have you met, or seen, any one, miss — out here, I mean r" 

« ^i—yes— I have." 

" You * have I What sort of ]>erson ? Be good enough to 
describe — " 

" A lady.'' 

" Lady I" echo several voices. 

"Si, Benores." 

** What sort of a lady T' 

*' Una Americana." 

" An American lady ! — out here ? Alone r'' 

** Si, senores." 

"Who?" 

" Quien sale /'' 

"You don't know her ? What was she like ?*' 

"Like?— like P' 

" Yes ; how was she dressed ?" 

" Vcstido de eahalh:' 

" On horseback, then ?" 

" On horseback." 

" Wliere did you meet the lady you speak of?" 

" Not far from this ; only on the other side of the chapparal." 

" Which way was slie going ? Is thei*e any house on the other 
side?" 

" A jacalc. I onl}' know of that." 

Poindt.'xter to one of the partv, who understands Spanish: "A 
jacaUr 

" They give that name to their shanties." 

" To whom does it belong — this jacale ? " 

" Don Mdiiricio, el musteuero.^* 

"Maurice the mustangcr!" translati^ the ready interpreter. 

A murmur of mutual congratulation nms through the crowd. 
After two days of searching — fruitless, as earnest — they have 
struck a trail, — the trail of the murderer ! 

Those who have alighted spring back into their saddles. All 
take up their reins, ready to ride on. 

" We don't wish to be rude, Miss Martinez — if that be your 
name; but you must guide us to this place you speak of." 

" It takes me a little out of my way — ^though not far. Come on, 
cavalleros! J shall show you, if you are determined on going 
there." 

Isidora re-crosses the belt of chapparal — ^followed by the hundred 
horsemen, who ride stragglingly after her. 



ANGELS ON EAKTH. 808 

She halts on its western eilji^e; hetwocn whieh and the Alamo 
there is a stretch of open praii-ie. 

" Yonder !" says she, pointing over the plain; " you see that black 
spot on the horizon? It is the top of an aUiueliuete, Its roots are 
in the bottom lands of the Alamo. Go there! There is a canon 
leadinjy down the cliff. Descend. You will find, a little beyond, the 
jacaU of which I've told you." 

The searchers are too nmch in earnest to stay for further direc- 
tions. Almost forgetting her who has given them, they spur off 
across the plain, riding straight for the cypress. 

One of the part}' alone lingers — not the leader, but a man equally 
interested in all that has tran8])ired. Perhaps more so, in what has 
be(»n said in relation to the lady seen by Isidora. He is one who 
knows Isidora's language, as well as his own native tongue. 

** Tell me, ninay' says he, bringing his horse alongside hers, and 
sjjeaking in a t^)ne of solicitude — almost of entreaty — " Did you 
take notice of the horse ridden by this lady?" 

** Carrambo ! yes. What a question, cavallero ! Who coidd help 
noticing it?" 

" The colour?" gasps the inquirer. 

** Un musteTio pintojoy 

" A spotted mustang ! Holy Heaven !" exclaims Cassius Calhoun, 
in a half shriek, half groan, as he gallops after the searchers — ^leaving 
Isidora in the belief, that, besides her own, there is one other heart 
burning with that fierce lire which only desith can extinguish ! 



CHAPTER LXI. 

A\(IELS ON EAKTII. 

The retreat of her rival — quick and unexpected — held Louise 
Poindexter, as if spell-bound. She had chmbed into the saddle, and 
was seated, with spur ready to ])ierce the flanks of the fair 
Luna. But the stroke was suspended, and she remained in a state 
of indecision — bewildered by what she saw. 

Dutthe moment before she had looked into the ,/rttfaZe — had seen 
her rival there, apparently at home; mistress both of the mansion 
and its owner. 

What was she to tliink of that sudden desertion ? Why tliat 
look of spiteful hatred? Why not the imperious confidence, that 
should spring from a knowledge of possession ? 

In jdace of giving displeasure, Isidora's looks and actions had 
caused her a secret gratification. Instead of galloping aft<jr, or 
going in any direction, Louise Poindexter once more slipped down 
from her saddle, and re-entered the hut. 



804 THE HKADLESS HOR3EMAX. 

At sight of the pallid cbeeks and wild rolling ejes, the young 
Creole for tlie moment forjrot bar wrongs. 

** Man ditu! Mon dieu!'^ she cried, gliding up to the catre, 
" Maurice — wounded — dying I Who has done this?" 

There was no reply: only the mutterings of a madman. 

"Maurice! Maurice! «i>eak to me! Do you not know me? 
Louise ! Your Louise ! You have called me so? Say it — O sav it 
again!" 

" Ah ! you are verj- beautiful, you angels here in heaven! Very 
beautiful/ Y'es, yes ; you look so — to the eyes — to the eyes. But 
don't say there are none like you upon the Earth ; for there are — 
there are. I know one — ah I more — but one that excels you all, 
you angels in heaven I I mean in beauty — in goodness, that's 
another thing. I'm not thinking of goodness — no; no." 

" Maurice, dear Maurice ! Why do you talk thus? Y'ou arc not 
in heaven ; you are here with me — ^with Louise." 

" I am in heaven ; yes, in heaven ! I don't wish it, for all tbey 
say ; that is, unless I can have her with me. It may be a pleasant 
place. Not without her. If she were here, I could be content. 
Hear it, ye angels, that come hovering around me ! Very beautiful, 
you are, 1 admit ; but none of you like her — ^her — my angel. Oh ! 
there's a devil, too ; a beautiful devil — I don't mean that. I'm 
thinking only of the angel of the prairies." 

" Do you remember her name ?" 

Perhaps never was question put to a delirious man, where the 
questioner showed so much interest in the answer. 

She bent over him with cars upon the strain — with eyes that 
marked every movement of his lips. 

** Name? name? Did some one say, name? Have you any names 
here? Oh! I remember — Michael, Gabriel, Azrael — men, all men. 
Angels, not like my angel — who is a woman. Her name is" 

"Is?" 

" Louise —Louise — Louise. Why should I conceal it from you — 
you up here, who know everjiihing that's down there? Surely you 
know her— Louise ? Y'ou should: you could not help loving her — 
ah I with all your heart s, as I with all mine — all — all !" 

Not when these last words were once before spoken — first spoken 
under the shade of the acacia trees — the speaker in full consciousness 
of intellect — iu the full fervour of his soul — not then were they lis- 
tened to with such delight. 0, happy hour for her who heard them ! 

Again were soft kisses lavished upon that fevered brow — ^upon 
those wan lij)s; but this time by one who had no need to recoil 
after the contact. 

She only stood up erect — triiunphant; — ^her hand pressing upon 
her heart, to stay its wild pulsations. It was pleasure too com- 
plete, too ecstatic : for there was pain in the thought that it could 
not bo felt for ever — iu the fear of its being too soon interrupted. 

The last was but the shadow thrown before, and in such shape it 
appeared — a shadow that came darkling through the doorway. 



ANOKLB ON EABTH. 805 

The substance that followed was a man; who, the moment after, 
was seen standing iii)on the stoup. 

There was nothing terrible in the aspect of the new comer. On 
the contrary, his countenance and costume were typos of the 'co- 
mical, heightened by contrast with the wild associations of the 
time and place. Still further, from juxtaposition with the odd objects 
carried in his hands; in one a tomahawk; in the other a huge 
snake; with its tail terminating in a. string of bead-like rattles, 
that betrayed its species. 

If an3'thing could have added to his air of grotesque drollery, it 
was the expression of puzzled surprise that came over his counte- 
nance ; as, stepi)ing upon the threshold, he discovered the change 
that had taken place in the occupancy of the hut. 

"Mother av Moses!" he exclaimed, dropping both snake and 
tomahawk, and opening his eyes as wide as the lids would allow 
them ; *' Shure I must be dhramin ? Trath must I ! It cyant 
be yersilf. Miss I\)intdixth(»r ? Shure now it cyant?" 

** But it is, Mr. O'Xeal. How very ungallant in you to have 
forgotten me, and so soon !" 

" Forgotten yez ! Trath. miss, yez needn't accuse me of doin' 
that which is intirely impossible. The Oirishman that hiz wance 
looked in yer swate face will be undher the necissity iver afther to 
remimber it. Sowl ! thare's wan that cyant forgit it, even in his 
dhrames !'' 

The s])oaker glanced significantly towards the couch. A deli- 
cious thrill passed through the bosom of the listener. 

" But fwhat diz it all mane ?" continued Phelim, returning to 
the unexplained puzzle of the transformation, ** Fwhare's the 
tother— the young chap, or lady, or woman — whichsomiver she 
an ?" Did'nt vez see nothin* av a wuman. Miss Pointdixther P" 

" Yes— yes.*' 

" Oh ! yez did. An f where is she now ?" 

" Gone away, I believe." 

" Gone away ! Bl? japers, thin, she hasent remained long in the 
wan mind. I lift her heeur in the cyabin not tin minnits ago, takin* 
aff her boiinit — that was only a man's hat — an' sittlin' hersilf dovm 
for a stay. (3 one, yez say? Sowl! I'm not sorry to hear it. 
That's a young lady whose room's betther than her company, any 
day in the twilmonth. Slug's a dale too handy wid her shootin'- 
iron. Wud yez belave it, Miss Pointdixther ; she prisintcd a pistol 
widin six inches av me nose V" 

" Pardieu ! For what reason *r" 

" Fwhat rayzun ? Only that I thried to hindhcr her from iu- 
thrudin* into the cyabin. She got in for all that ; for whin owld 
Zeb come back, he made no objecshun to it. She sayed she was a 
frind av the masther, an' wanted to nurse him." 

"Indeed! Oh! it is strange — very strange!" muttered the 
Crool(», rellcctingly. 

" Trath, is it. And so is ivory thing in these times, exciptin' 



806 THE HEADLESS HOBSEIIAX. 

yez own swate silf ; lliat I hope will niver be Bthrauge iu a cjabin 
frequintcd by rhayliin Onale. 8hure, now, I'm glad to see yez, 
iniRH ; an' shure «o wud the masther, if " 

** Dear Phelim I tell me all that has happened. 

"TrathI thin miss, if I'm to till all, ye'll hiv to take off your 
bonnet, and make up your moind for a long stay — seein' as it 'ud 
take the big ind av a whole day to relate all the quare things that*8 
liap()ened Rince the day afore yesthirday." 

'* Who has been here since then ?" 

''Who has been hceur'r" 

" Except the— the " 

'* Exceptin the man-wuman, ye mane r" 

" Yes. >Ias any one else l>een to this place ?" 

"Trath has than' — plinty bcsoides. An avail sorts, an colours too. 
First an foremost there was waucomin' this way, though he didn't 
git all the way to the cyabin. But 1 daren't tell you about him, 
for it moight frighten ve, miss." 

"Tell me. I have no fi-ar." 

" Be dad ! and 1 can't make it out meself quite intirely. It was 
a man upon horseback widout a hid." 

" Without a head !" 

" Divil a bit av that same on his Ixxly.*' 

The statement caused Phelim to be suspected of having lost liis. 

"An' wliat's more, mis.s, he was for all the world fike Mas- 
thcr Maurice himself. Wid his horse undher him, an' his Mexi- 
kin blanket about his showldcrs, an' everything just as the young 
masther looks, when he's mounted, Sowl ! wasn't I scared, whin 
I sit my eves on him.** 

" liut where did you see this, Mr. O'Neal ?" 

" Up tharo on the t(»p av the bluff. I was out hwkin' for the 
masther to come back lrv)m ihe Sittlement, as he'd promised he yrad 
tliat moniin', an' who showld I see but hisself, as 1 supposed it to 
be. An' thin he comes ridin' up, widout his hid, an' stops a bit, 
an' thin goes ofl'at a tarin' gallop, wid Tara gowlin' at his horse's 
heels, away aerass the big plain, till 1 saw no more av him. Thin 
I made back for the eyabin heeur, an' shut meself up, and wint to 
slapc ; and just in the middle av me dhnimes, whin 1 was dliramin' 

av but trath, niiss, ye//ll be toii*ed standin' on yer fed; all this 

time. Won't yez take aff yer i)\n-ty little ridin' hat, an' sit down 
on th(» thrunk thare 'r--it's'asier than the stool. ])o plaze take a 
sate ; fi»r if I'm to tell yez all " 

" Never min<l me- go on. J^lease tell me who else has been 
here besides this strange cavalier; who nmst have been some one 
playing a triek uj)on you, I sujipose." 

" A thrick, miss ! Trath that's just what owld Zeb sayed." 

" He has been here, then ?" 

" Yis- y is— but not till long afther the others." 

"The others?" 

** Yis, miss. Zeb only arroived yestherday marnin'. The others 



ANGELS ON EABTH. 807 

paid their visit the night afore, an' at a very unsajzonable hour 
too, wakin' me out av the middle av my slape." 

'' But who ?— what others ?" 

" Why the Indyens, to be shure/* 

" There have been Indians, then ?" 

*• Trath was there — a whole tribe av thim. Well, as I've been 
tillin' yez, misit, jest as I wus in a soun' slape, I heerd talkin' in 
the eyabin heern, right over my hid, an' the shufflin' av paper, as 

if somebody was dalin' a pack av cards, an Mother av Moses ! 

fwhat's that ?" 

-What?" 

"Didn't yez heear somethiu' ? Wheesht! Tharc it is agane ! 
Trath, it's the trampin' av horses ! They're jist outside." 

Plielim rushed towards the door. 

** Be Sant Pathrick ! the place is surrounded wid men on horse- 
back. 'J'hare's a thousand av them! an' more comin' behind! Be 

japers ! them's the chaps owld Zeb Now for a frish spell av 

scpuMilin ! O Lard ! I'll be too late !" 

Seizing the c«actus-branch — ^that for convenience he had brought 
inside the hut — ^lie dashed out through the doorway. 

" Mofi Dieit /" cried the Creole, " 'tis they ! My father, and I 
here ! How shall I explain it ? Holy Virgin, save me from 
shame !" 

Instinctively she sprang towards the door, closing it, as she 
did so. J^it a moment's reflection showed her how idle was the 
act. They who werc outside would make light of such obstruction. 
Already she recognised the voices of the Regulators I 

The opening in the skin wall came under her eye. Should she 
make a retreat through that, luidignified as it might be ? 

It was no longer possible. The sound of hoofs also in the rear ! 
There were horsemen behind the hut ! 

Hesides, her own steed was in front — that ocellated creature not 
to be mistaken. By this time they must have identified it I 

But there was another thought that restrained her from at- 
teni))ting to retreat — one more generous. 

He was in danger — from which even th? unconsciousness of it 
might not shield him ! W^ho but she could protect liim ? 

*' Let my good name go !" thought she. " Father — friends — 
all — all but him, if God so wills it ! Shame, or no shame, to him 
will I be true !'' 

As these noble thoughts i)assed through her mind, she took her 
stand by the bedside of the invalid, like a second Dido, resolved 
to risk all — even death itself — for the hero of her heart. 



dm 



CHAI^TER LXII. 

T*AlTTyG FOB THE CTT- 

X«?T.:r, <r»^:': it* ''r«y.-t: vn. iras thr^r s^cb a trami»ling of hoofs 
arr^fjfid th'r hut of th.-; LorK-cauher — not even vhen its coml was 
fill/rrl with fr-r*h -tak-ri rmita!;!?^. 

J'hflim. r*.-;.::;:: oit fr;rn ih*.- dx-r. i* saluted bj a Fcore of 
Toiora that r':n.rr.o:i hira to «*:'»p. 

On'; i» hfr'^Tfl I'.u'k-r than th-* rest, and in tones of command that 
pnx;]airn the >?j^-ak'r to b-? chief f.f the party. 

" J'uII up, d — n you ! It's no us*: — your trj'inij to escape. 
Anoth'fT iitC'p, and v* H jro t»iiij]ilinir in voiir track«. Pull up, I 
•ay!" 

Tli*r coiijinund take-' efr»-ct upon the Connemara man. who has 
}Kten makin;^ din-ct f'>r Zc-b Stump's marc, tethered on the other 
side of the openinj^. He stojt- upon the instant. 

** Sliiire, j^ntbrinen, I don't want to eseyape." asseverates he, 
shivering at the Bi;^ht of a score of angry faces, and the same 
nuiril>cr of gun-harrel« lieaririL: upon his j^erson ; " I had no such 
intirmhuns. J was only j^oin' to " 

" Hum off, if ye'd >^ot the chauce. Ye'd made a good bi'ginning. 
Here, Diek I'rarey I lialf-a-dozen tunis of your trail-rope round 

him. Lend a hand, Shelton ! I) d queer-looking curse he is! 

Surely, gcnlleirKMi, thin (;arrt be the? man we're in search of?" 

" No, no ! it irtii't. Only his man John.'* 

" Ho! hilloa, you round there at the back! Keep your e^'cs 
skinned. Wo havn't ^^ot him yet. Don't let as much as a cat 
creep pant you. Now, nirrec I who's inside?" 

" Who's iuHoider The cyabin div yez mane?" 

" J) n ye ! answer the question that's put to ye !" says 

Trac<;v, ^ivin^^ his i)risoner a touch of the trail-roi>e. ** Who's in- 
side thu nhaniy ?" 

"() i^ard ! Nee<ls must whin the divvol dhrives. Wil, then, 
tlmnj'M thr masther for wan " 

"Ho! what's this?" incjuires Woodley Poindexter, at this 
mom(Mit, riding uj», and seein*^ the spotted mare. ** Why — it — 
it's Jjooey's mustang !" 

•* II is, unele," answers (^assius Calhoun, who has ridden up 
alonf^ with him. 

" I wj>nd<'r who's brought the beast here?" 

" Loo herself, I reckon. " 

** NonsjMist' ! You're jesting, Cash ?" 

" No, uncle ; I'm in earnest." 

" You mean to say my daughter has been here?" 

"Has been— stiiris, I take it." 



W.VITING FOR THE CUE. 809 

** Impossible !*' 

'* Look yonder, then !" 

The door has just been opened. A female form is seen inside. 

** Good God, it is my daughter !" 

Poindexter drops from his saddle, and hastens up to the hut — 
close followed by Calhoun. Both go inside. 

** Louise, what means this ? A wounded man ! Is it ho — 
Henry?" 

Before an answer can be given, his eye falls upon a cloak and hat 
— llcnrv's! 

" It is ; he's alive ! Thank heaven !" 

He strides towards the couch. 

The joy of an instant is in an instant gone. The pale face upon 
the pillow is not that of his son. The father staggers back with 
a groan. 

Calhoun seems equally affected. But the cry from him is an ex- 
clamation of horror ; after which he slinks cowed-liko out of the 
cabin. 

" Great God !" gasps the planter; " what is it ? Can you explain, 
Louise?'* 

" I cannot, father. I*ve been here but a few minutes. I found 
him as you see. He is delirious." 

*' And— and— Henry ?" 

"They have told mo nothing. Mr Gerald was alone when I 
entered. The man outside was absent, and has just returned. I 
have not had time to question him.** 

" But — but, how came i/ou to be here r" 

" I could not stay at home. I could not endure the uncertainty 
any longer. It was terrible— alone, with no one at the house ; and 
the thought that my i>oor brother — Jfon dieu ! Mon dieur^ 

Poindexter regards hie daughter with a perj>lexed, but still 
inquiring, look. 

" I thought I might fmd Henry here." 

" Here ! But how did you know of this place ? Who guided 
you? You are by yourself !" 

" Oh, father ! I knew the way. Yoa remember the day of [the 
hunt — ^when the mustang ran away with me. It was beyond this 
jdace I was carried. On returning with Mr Gerald, he told mo he 
lived here. I fancied I could fmd the way back." 

Poindexter's look of perplexity does not leave him, though 
another expression becomes blended with it. His brow contracts ; 
the shadow deepens upon it ; though whatever the dark thought, 
he does not declare it. 

" A strange thing for you to have done, my daughter. Impru- 
dent — indeed dangerous. You have acted like a silly girl. Come 
— come away ! This is no place for a lady — for you. Get to your 
horse, and ride home again. Some one will go with you. There 
may be a scene here, you should not be present at. Come, come !** 

The father strides forth from the hut, the daughter following 



810 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAX. 

with reluctance scarce concealed ; and, with like unwillingness, is 
conducted to her saddle. 

The searchers, now dismounted, are upon the open ground in 
front. 

They are all there. Calhoun has nia<le knoA\-n the condition of 
things" inside ; and there is no nee<l for them to keep up their 
vigilance. 

They stand in ^oups — some silent, some conversing. A larger 
crowd is around the Connemara man ; who lies upon the grass, fast 
tied in the trail-rope. His tongue is allowed liberty ; and they 
question him, but without ^ving much credit to his answers. 

On the re-appearance of the father and daughter, they face to- 
wards tliem, but stand silent. For all this, they are burning with 
eagerness to have an explanation of what is passing. Tlieir looks 
proclaim it. 

Most of them know the young lady by sight — all by fame, or 
name. They feel surprise — almost wonder — at seeing her there. 
The sister of tiie murdered man under the roof of his murderer ! 

More than ever are they convinced that this is the state of the 
case. Calhoun, cominj^ forth from the hut, has spread fresh intel- 
ligence among them — facts that seem to confirm it. He has told 
them of the hat, the cloak — of the munlerer himself, injured in the 
death-struggle ! 

But why is Louise Toindexter there — alone — unaccompanied by 
white or black, by relative or slave ? A guest, too : for in this 
character does she appear ! 

Her cousin does not explain it — ^perhai)s he cannot. 
Her father — can ho? Judging by his embarrassed air, it is 
doubtful. 

Whisi)ers pass from lip to ear — from group to group. There 
are surmises — many, but none spoken aloud. Even the rude 
frontiei-smcn respect the feelings — lihal as parental — and patiently 
await the eclaircissement. 

" Mount, Louise ! Mr. Yancey Avill ride home with you.'* 
The young plantiT thus pledged was never more ready to re- 
deem himself. He is the one who most envies the suppose<l hap- 
piness of Cassius Calhoun. In his soul he thanks Poindexter for 
the opportunity. 

"But, father!" protests the young lady, "Avhy should 1 not 
wait for you ? You are not going to stay here f " 
Yancey expeiiences ji shock of apprehension. 
" It is my wish, daughter, that you do as I tell you. Let that 
be sufficient." 

Yancey's confidence returns. Not quite. He knows enough of 
that proud spirit to be in doubt whether it may j-ield obedience — 
even to the parental command. 

It gives way ; but with an unwillingness ill disguised, even in 
the presence of that crowd of attentive spectators. 

The two ride off; the young planter taking the lead, his charge 



WAITING FOR THB CUE. 811 

slowly following — the former scarce able to conceal his exultation, 
the latter her chagiin. 

Yancey is more distressed than displeased, at the melancholy 
mood of his comj)aiiion. How could it be otherwise, with such a 
sorrow at her heart ? Of course he ascribes it to that. 

He but lialf interprets the cause. Were he to look steadfastly 
into the eye of Louise Poindexter, he might there detect an ex- 
pression, in which sorrow for the past is less marked, tlian fear 
for the future. 

They ride on through the trees — but not beyond ear-shot of the 
people they have left behind them. 

Suddenly a change comes over the countenance of the Creole — 
her features lighting up, as if some thought of joy, or at least of 
hope, had entered her soul. 

She stops rettectiugly — her escort constrained to do the same. 

" Mr. Yancey," says she, after a short pause, " my saddle has got 
loose. 1 caimot sit comfortably in it. Have the goodness to look 
to the girths !" 

Yancey leaps to the ground, delighted with the duty thus im- 
l)0sed upon him. 

He examines the girths. In his opinion they do not want 
tightening. He does not say so ; but, undoing the buckle, pulls 
upon tlic strap with all his strength. 

" Stay !" says the fair equestrian, " let me alight. You will get 
better at it then." 

Without waiting for his assistance, she springs from her stirrup, 
and stands by the side of the mustang. 

The young man continues to tug at the straps, pulling with all 
the power of his arms. 

After a prolonged struggle, that turns him red in the face, he 
succeeds in shortening them by a single hole. 

" Now, Miss Poindexter ; I think it will do." 

"Perhaps it will," rtjoins the lady, placing her hand upon 
the horn of her saddle, and giving it a slight shake. " No doubt 
it will do now. Aft>er all 'tis a pity to stai-t back so soon. I've 
just arrived here after a fast gallop ; and m}*- poor Luna has scarce 
had time to breathe herself. What if we stop here a while, and 
let her have a little rest ? 'Tis cruel to take her back without it." 

" But your father ? He seemed desirous you should — ** 

" That I should go home at once. That's nothing. 'T^'as only 
to get me out of the way of these rough men — that was all. He 
won't care ; so long as I'm out of sight. 'Tis a sweet place, this ; 
so cool, under the shade of these fine trees — just now that the 
sun is blazing down upon the prairie. Let us stay a while, and 
give Luna a rest ! We can amuse ourselves by watching the 
gambols of these beautiful silver fish in the stream. Look there, 
Mr. Y'ancey ! What pretty creatures they are !" 

The young planter begins to feel flattered. Wliy should his 
fair companion wish to linger there with him? Why wish to 



312 THK HEADLESH UOKSEMAX. 

watch the iodons, cn^gcd in their aquatic cotillon — amorous at 
that time of the year ? 

He conjectures «i reply conformable to his own inclinations. 

His compliance is easily obtained. 

** Miss Poindexter," says he, ** it is for you to command me. I 
am but too hai)py to stay here, as long as you \\'i8h it." 

" Only till Luna Ikj rested. To say the truth, sir, I had scarce 
got out of the saddle, as the people came up. See! the poor tiling 
is still panting after our long gallop." 

Yancey does not take notice whether the spotted mustang is 
panting or no. He is but too pleased to comply with the wishes 
of its rider. 

They stay by the side of the stream. 

He is a little surprised to perceive that his eonijianion gives but 
slight heed, either to the silver tish, or the spotted nuistang. He 
would have liked this all the better, had her attentions been trans- 
ferred to himself. 

But they are not. He can arrest neither her eye nor her ear. 
The former seems straying upon vacancy; the latter eagerly bent 
to catch every sound that comes from the clearing. 

Despite his inclinations towards her, he cannot heli> listening 
himself. He suspects that a serious scene is there being enacted — 
a trial before Judge Lynch, with a jury of "Rogulatoi-s." 

Excited talk comes echoing tlu-ough the tree-trunks. There is 
an eaniestness in its accents that tells of some terrible determi- 
nation. 

Both listen ; the lady like some tragic actress, by the side- 
scene of a theatre, waiting for her cue. 

There are speeches in more than one voice ; as if made by dif- 
ferent men ; then one longer than the rest — a harangue. 

Louise recognizes the voice. It is that of her cousin Cassiiis. 
It is urgent — at times angrj', at times argumentative: as if per- 
suading his audience to something they are not willing to do. 

His speech comes to an end; and immediately after it, there are 
quick shaq? exclamations — cries of assent — one louder than the 
rest, of fearful import. 

"While listening, Yancey has forgotten the fair creature by his 
side. 

He is reminded of her presence, by seeing her spring away from 
the spot, and, with a wild but resolute air, ghde towards the 
jacale I 



U3 



CHAPTER LXIII. 

A JURY OF REGULATORS. 

The cry, that had called the young Creole so suddenly from 
the side of her companion, was the verdict of a jury — in whoso 
rude phrase was also included the pronouncing of the sentence. 

The word " hang " was ringing in her ears, as she started 
away from the spot. 

While pretending to take an interest in the play of the silver- 
fish, her thoughts were upon that scene, of less gentle character, 
transpiring in front of the jacale. 

Though the trees hindered her from having a view of the 
stage, she knew the actors that were on it ; and could tell by 
their speeches how the play was progressing. 

About the time of her dismounting, a tableau had been 
formed that merits a minute description. 

The men, she had left beliind, were no longer in scattered 
groups ; but drawn together into a crowd, in shape rouglily 
resembling the circumference of a circle. 

Inside it, some half-score figures were conspicuous — among 
them the tall form of the Rogiilator Chief, with three or fom* of 
his " marshals." Woodley Poindexter was there, and by his side 
Cassius Calhoun. These no longer appeared to act with authority ; 
but rather as spectators, or witnesses, in the judicial drama 
about being enacted. 

Such in reality was the nature of the scene. It was a trial for 
murder — a trial before Justice Lynch — this grim dignitary being 
iypified in the person of the Regulator Chief — with a jury 
composed of all the people upon the ground — all except the 
prisoners. 

Of these there are two — ^Maurice Gerald and his man Phelim. 

They are inside the ring, both prostrate upon tho grass ; both 
fast bound in I'aw-hido ropes, tliat hinder them from moving 
hand or foot. 

Even their tongues are not free. Plielim has been cursed and 
scared into silence ; while to his master speech is rendered 
impossible by a piece of stick fastened bitt-like between his teeth. 
It has been done to prevent inteiTuption by tho insane ravings, 
that would otherwise issue from his lips. 

Even the tight-drawn thongs cannot keep him in place. Two 
znen, one at each shoulder, with a third seated upon his knees, 
hold him to the ground. His eyes alone are free to move ; and 
these rolling in their sockets glare upon his guards wth wild 
umatural glances, fearful to encounter. A 



314 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAK. 

Only one of the prisoners is arraigned on the capital charge ; 
the other is bat doubtfully regarded as an accomplice. 

The servant alone has been examined — asked to confess all he 
knows, and what he has to say for himself. It is no use putting 
questions to his master. 

Phelim has told his tale — too strange to be credited ; though 
the strangest part of it — that relating to his haying seen a 
horseman ^N-ithout a head — is looked upon as the least improbable ! 

He cannot explain it ; and his story but strengthens the 
suspicion already aroused — ^that the spectral apparition is a 
part of the scheme of murder ! 

"All stuff his tales about tiger-fights and Indians!" say those 
to whom he has been imparting them. " A pack of lies, con- 
trived to mislead us — nothing else." 

The trial has lasted scarce ten minutes 5 and yet the jury have 
come to their conclusion. 

In the minds of most — already predisposed to it — there is a 
full conviction that Henry Poindexter is a dead man, and that 
Maurice Gerald is answerable for his death. 

Every circumstance already known has been reconsidered ; 
while to these have been added the new facts discovered at the 
jacale — the ugliest of which is the finding of the doak and 
hat. 

The explanations given by the Galwegian, confused and 
incongiTious, carry no credit. Why should they ? They are 
the inventions of an accomplice. 

There are some who will scarce stay to hear them — some who 
impatiently cry out, " Let the murderer be hanged !" 

As if this verdict had been anticipated, a rope lies ready upon 
the gi'ound, with a noose at its end. It is only a lazo ; but for 
the purpose Calcraft could not produce a more perfect piece 
of cord. 

A sycamore standing near offers a horizontal limb — good 
enough for a gallows. 

The vote is taken viva voce. 

Eighty out of the hundred jurors express their opinion : 
that Maurice Gerald must die. His hour appears to have come. 

And yet the sentence is not carried into execution. The rope 
is suflbred to lie guileless on the grass. No one seems willing to 
lay hold of it ! 

Why that hanging back, as if the thong of horse-hide was a 
venomous snake, that none dares to touch ? 

The majority — the pluralUy, to use a true Western word — ^has 
pronounced the scntciiee of death; some strengthening it with 
rudo, t'ven blasphemous, speech. Why is it not carried out ? 

Why r For want of that unanimity, that stimulates to iiu- 
niecliatc action — for want of the proofs to produce it. 

There is a minority not satisfied — that with less noise, but 
equally earnest emphasis, have answered "No." 



A JURY or BSQULATOSS. 315 

It is tliis tliat has cansed a suspension of the violent pro- 
ceedings. 

Among this minority is Judge Lynch himself — Sam Manly, 
the Chief of the Begcdators. He has not yet passed sentence ; 
or even signified his acceptance of the acclamatory verdict. 

^' Fellow citizens !" cries he, as soon as he has an opportunity of 
making himself heard, " I'm of the opinion, that there's a doubt 
in this case'; and I reckon we ought to give the accused the 
benefit of it^that is, till he be able to say his own say about it. 
It's no use questioning him now, as ye all see. We have him 
tight and fast ; and there's not much chance of his getting clear 
— if guilty. Therefore, I move we postpone the trial, till " 

" What's the use of postponing it .''" interrupts a voice already 
load for the prosecution, and which can be distinguished as 
that of Cassius Calhoun. " What's the use, Sam Manly ? It's 
all very well for you to talk that way ; but if you had a friend 
foully murdered — I won't say cousin, but a son, a brother — you 
might not be so soft about it. What more do you want to show 
that the skunk 's guilty ? Further proofs ?" 

" That's just what we want. Captain Calhoun." 

" Cyan you give them, Misther Cashius Calhoon ?" inquires a 
voice from the outside circle, with a strong Irish accent. 

" Perhaps I can." 

" Let's have them, then ! " 

" God knows you've had evidence enough. A jury of his own 
stupid countrymen " 

*' Bar that appellashun !" shouts the man, who has demanded 
the additional evidence. " Just remember, Misther Calhoon, 
ye'rc in Texas, and not Mississippi. Bear that in mind ; or ye 
may run yoxir tongue into trouble, sharp as it is." 

" I don't mean to ofifend any one," says Calhoun, backing out 
of the dilemma into which his Irish antipathies had led him ; 
" even an Englishman, if there's one here." 

" Thare ye're Avelcome — go on !" cries the mollified ^lilesian. 

" Well, then, as I was saying, there's been evidence enough — 
and more than enough, in my opinion. But if you want more, 
I can give it." 

" GKvo it — give it I" cry a score of responding voices ; that 
keep up the demand, while Calhoun seems to hesitate. 

'' Gentlemen !" says lie, squaring himself to the crowd, as if 
for a speech, " what I've got to say now I could have told you 
long ago. But I didn't tliink it was needed. You all know what's 
hap]jened between this man and myself; and I had no wish to 
be thought revengeful. I'm not ; and if it wasn't that I'm sure 
he lias done the deed — sure as the head 's on my body " 

Calhoun speaks stammeringly, seeing that the ])hrase, invo- 
luntarily escaping from his lips, has produced a strange effect 
upon his auditory — as it has upon himself. 

" If not sure — I — I sliould still say nothing of what I've 

p 2 



31C THZ «y*T*Trjtc Hjsnuir. 

seen, or rarr.-r }..?5iri: for it wjis in the mA% «nd I ssmir 
nf/thir-2^/* 

*'W}jAt di'i ro-; Lf^r. Mr. Calhoou ?"* demands the Be5ral&x<-:7 

Chiftf, re-nmirj;/ L:^ }i'\iczk\ demeanour, for a tizne fyiwtsLESi is iLe 
ocrtif ofei '^n of v or : r: sr t he Terdict- " ' Your qiiarrel wiiii tite pri*3Si*T. 
of whk'h n^rI;'rv<r'.-verTl»iT h&$ heard, can hare nothmg' to do 
with ymr UrH^'iTn'^'Tir here. Xobodj '< godng w aocnse jxra of 
fiJjse sweariii^f on that account. Plesase pr«j«d, sir. Wlhat did 
you hear r At;^ where, and when, did yon hear it r " 

*• To \f^'jr:n, rl'jen. -with the tim-?. It was the night my coTL?in 
was ifiih-siuir ; thoajrh. of course, we didn't miss him till the 
mom'ui^. ijA\i Tuesdar ni<fht.** 
" Tiie«<hiy j/y/nx. Well r" 

" I'd turjj*r'l in mys-.-lf: and thought Henry had done the same. 
But wl.a* with the heat, and the infernal mnsquitoes. I coni-izi'i 
get any «leep. 

" I htarted up aj^ain : lit a cigar ; and. after smoking it awhile 

in the nyijn, I tliou'^ht of taking a turn upon the top of the honse. 

" Yoii kri'iW th'.' '^Id hacienda has a flat ro.:>f. I suppose r WelL 

I wf.'nt u]* there to g».'t cool; and continue! to pull away at 

the weed. 

"ltmu=«t have b?on then about midnight, or maybe a little 
earlier, f can't t ;11 : for I'd been tossing about on my bed. and 
t'jok no note of the time. 

" JiHt as F h'ld smoked to the end of my cigar, and was abr^nt 
to take a n^.-rrond out of my case, I heard voices. There were 
two of them. 

" They wei-e up the river, as I thought on the other side. 
They vv<;r.; a good way off, in the direction of the town. 

" I mightn't Inve b ,*o*n able to distinguisli tliem, or tell one from 
*toth.*r, if tli'.y'd b .'rjn talking in the ordinary way. But they 
weren't. Thf;re was loud angry talk ; and I could tell that two 
men were quarn-Hing. 

** I supposed it W/is some drunken rowdies, going home from 
Obyrdofler'rt tavern, and I should have thought no more about 
it. But as r listened, I recognized one of the voices; and then 
the (jther. Th i first was my cousin Henry's — the second 
that of the man who is there — the man Avho has murdered 
him." 

" Please ])rorrH;l, Mr. C.illioun ! Lot us hear the whole of the 
oviden(Mj you have; promised U) produce. It will be time enough 
then to state your opinions." 

" Well, g(;ntl(MntMi ; as you may imagine, I was no little sur- 

{)rised at hearing my cousin's voice — supposing him asleep in 
lis bed. So sure was I of its being him, that I didn't 
think of going to his room, to see if he was there. I know it 
wa8 his voice ; and I was quite as sure that the other was that 
of the horse-catcher. 

"I thought it uncommonly queer, in Henry being out at 



A JURY OF BEGULATOBS. 317 

sucli a late hour : as he was never mnch given to that sort of 
thing. But out he was. I couldn't be mistaken about that. 

" 1 listened to catch what the quarrel was about ; but though 
I could distinguish the voices, I couldn't make out anything that 
was said on either side. What I did hear was Henry calling him 
by some strong names, as if my cousin had been first insulted ; 
and then I heard the Irishman threatening to make him me it. 
Each loudly pronounced the other's name ; and that convinced 
mc about its being them. 

" I should have gone out to sec what the trouble was ; but I 
was in my slippers ; and before I could ditiw on a pair of boots, 
it appeared to be all over. 

" I waited for half an hour, for Henry to come home. He 
didn't come ; but, as I supposed he had gone back to Oberdoffer's 
and fallen in with some of the fellows from the Fort, I concluded 
lie might stay there a spell, and I went back to my bed. 

" Kow, gentlemen, I've told you all I know. My poor cousin 
never came back to Casa del Uorvo— never more laid his side 
on a bed, — for that we found by going to his room next morning. 
His bed that night must have been somewhere upon the prairie, 
or in the chapparal ; and there's the only man who knows 
Avlicre." 

With a wave of his hand the speaker triumphantly indicated 
the accused — whoso wild straining eyes told how unconscious 
he was of the terrible accusation, or of the vengeful looks with 
"vvhich, from all sides, he was now regarded. 

Calhoun's story was told with a circumstantiality, that went 
far to produce conviction of the prisoner's guilt. The conclud- 
ing speech appeared eloquent of truth, and was followed by 
a cltuiiorous demand for the execution to proceed. 

"Hang ! hang!" is the cry from fourscore voices. 

The judge himself seems to waver. The minority has been 
diminished — no longer eighty, out of the hundred, but ninety 
repeat the cry. The more moderate are overborne by the inun- 
dation of vengeful voices. 

The crowd sways to and fro— resembh'ng a storm fast 
increasing to a tempest. 

It soon comes to its height. A ruffian rushes towards the rope. 
Though none seem to have noticed it, he has parted from the 
side of Calhoun — with whom he has been holding a whispered 
conversation. One of those " border ruffians " of Southern 
descent, ever ready by the stake of the philanthropist, or the 
martyr — such as have been late typified in the military muV' 
derers of Jamaica, who have disgraced the English name to the 
limits of all time. 

He lays hold of the lazo, and quickly arranges its loop around 
the neck of the condemned man — alike unconscious of trial and 
condemnation. 

No one steps for^vard to oppose the act. The ruffian, bristling 



318 THE HEADLESS H0B8E1UV. 

with bowic-knifo and pistols, lias it all to liimself ; or, rather, is 
he assisted by a scoundrel of the same kidney — one of the ei-devant 
guards of the prisoner. 

The spectators stand aside, and look tranqnillj upon the pro- 
ceedings. Most express a mnte approval — some enconraf^ing 
the executioners with earnest vociferations of " Up with bim ! 
Hang hiTn I" 

A few seem stupefied bj surprise ; a less number show sym- 
pathy ; but not one dares to give proof of it^ by taking part with 
the prisoner. 

The rope is around his neck — the end with the noose upon it. 
The other is being swung over the sycamore. 

" Soon must the soul of ^Maurice Gerald go back to its Qrod !" 



CHAPTER LXIV. 

A SERIES OF INTEBLUDES. 

" Soon the soul of Maui-ice Gerald must go back to its God !" 

It was the thought of every actor in that tragedy among the 
trees. No one doubted that, in another moment, they would see 
his body hoisted into the air, and swinging £rom the branch of 
the sycamore. 

There was an interlude, not provided for in the programme. 
A farce was being performed simultaneously ; and, it might bo 
said, on the same stage. For once the tragedy was more attrac- 
tive, and the comedy %vas progressing without spectators. 

Not the less earnest Avere the actors in it. There were only 
two — a man and a mare. Phelim was once more re-enacting 
the scenes that had caused surprise to Isidora. 

Engrossed by tlie arguments of Calhoun — by the purposes of 
vengeance wliicli his story was producing — ^the Regulators only 
turned their attention to the chief criminal. No one thought of 
his companion — whether he was, or was not, an accomplice. 
His presence Avas scarce ])erceived — all eyes being directed with 
angry intent upon the other. 

Still less was it noticed, when the ruffians sprang forward, and 
commenced adjusting the roi>c. The Galwegian was then alto- 
gether neglected. 

There appeared an opportunity of escape, and Phelim was not 
slow to take advantage of it. 

Wrigglinpr himself clear of his fastenings, he crawled off among 
the legs of the surging crowd. 

No one seemed to see, or care about, his movements. Mad 
with excitement, they were pressing upon each other — the eyes 
of all turned upward to the gallows tree. 



A SERIES OF INTEBLUDBS. 319 

To Lave seen Phelim skulking off, it might have been snp* 
posed, that ho was profiting by the chance offered for escape—* 
saving his own life, without thinking of his master. 

It is true he could have done nothing, and he knew it. He 
had exliausted his advocacy ; and any further interference on his 
part would have been an idle effort, or only to aggravate the 
accusers. It was but slight disloyalty that he should think 
of saving himself— a mere instinct of self-preservation — to which 
lie seemed yielding, as he stole off among the trees. So one 
would have conjectured. 

But the conjecture would not have done justice to him of Con- 
nemara. In his flight the faithM servant had no design to 
forsake his master — much less leave him to his fate, without 
making one more effort to effect his delivery from the human 
bloodhounds who had hold of him. He knew he could do 
nothing of himself. His hope lay in summoning Zeb Stump, 
and it Avas to sound that signal — which had proved so effective 
before — that he was now stealing off from the scene, alike of 
trial and execution. 

. On getting beyond the selvedge of the throng, he had glided in 
among the trees ; and keeping these between him and the angry 
crowd, he ran on toward the spot where the old mare still grazed 
upon her tether. 

The other horses standing " hitched " to the twigs, formed a 
tolerably compact tier all round the edg^ of the timber. This 
aided in screening his movements from observation, so that he 
had arrived by the side of the mare, without being seen by any 
one. 

Just then he discovered that he had come without the apparatus 
necessary to carry out his design. The cactus branch had been 
dropped where he was first captured, and was still kicking 
about among the feet of his captors. He could not get hold of 
it, without exposing himself to a fresh seizure, and this would 
liinder him from effecting the desired end. 

He liad no knife — no weapon of any kind — ^wherewith he might 
procure another nopal. 

He paused, in painful uncertainty as to what he should do. 
Only for an instant. There was no time to be lost. His 
master's life was in imminent peril, menaced at every moment. 
No sacrifice Avould be too great to save him; and with this 
thought the faithful Phelim rushed towards the cactus-plant; 
and, seizing one of its spinous bmnches in his naked hands, 
wrenched it from the stem. 

His fingers were fearfully lacerated in the act ; but what 
mattered that, when weighed against the life of his beloved 
master ? With equal recklessness he ran up to the mare ; and, 
at the risk of being kicked back again, took hold of her tail, 
and once more applied the instrument of torture ! 

By this time the noose had been adjusted around the mustan- 



320 THE HEADLESS H0BSE1U5. 

^era neck, carefully adjusted to avoid fluke or fiuhire. The 
other end, leadinir over the limb of the tree, was held ia hand 
by the brace of iK-arded bailies — whose fingers appeared itching to 
pull upon it. In their eyes and attitudes was an air of deadly 
determination. They only waited for the word. 

Not that any one had the right to pronounce it. And jost for 
this reason was it delayed. Xo one seemed willing to take 
the responsibility of gi^'ing that signal, which was to send a 
fellow-creatnre to his long account. Criminal as they mi^ht 
regard him — murderer as they believed him to be — all shied firom 
doing the sliorifTs duty. Even Calhoun instinctively held back. 

It was not f ^r the want of will. There was no lack of that 
on the part of the cx-oflBcer, or among the Regulators. They 
showed no wign of retreating from the step they had taken. The 
paufic was .simj»ly owing to the informality of the proceedings. 
It was but the lull in the storm that precedes the grand crash. 

It was a moment of deep solemnity — every one silent as the 
tomb. They were in the presence of death, and knew it, — death 
in its most hideous shape, and darkest guise. Most of them felt 
tliat th'v were al)etting it. All believed it to be nigh. 

With hushed voice, and hindered gesture, they stood rigid as 
the tree-trunks around them. Surely the crisis had come ? 

It had ; but not that crisis by everybody expected, by themselves 
decreed. Instead of seeing Maurice Gerald jerked into the air, 
far different was the spectacle they were called upon to wit- 
ness, — one so ludicrous as for a time to interrupt the solemnity 
of the scene, and cause a suspension 'of the harsh proceedings. 

The old marc — that tliey knew to be Zeb Stump's — appeared to 
have gone suddenly mad. She had commenced dancing over 
the Kward, flinging her heels high into the air, and screaming' 
"vvitli all her mi^^^ht. She had given the cue to the hundred 
horses that stood tied to the trees ; and all of them had com- 
menced imitating her wild capers, while loudly responding to 
her screams ! 

Enchantment could Fcarce have produced a quicker trans- 
formation than occurred in the tableau formed in front of the 
jacalc hut. Not only was the execution suspended, but all other 
proceedings that regarded the condemned captive. 

Nor was the change of a comical character. On the contrary, 
it was accompanied by looks of alarm, and cries of consternation ! 

The llegulators rushed to their arms — some towards their 
horses. 

" Indians !'* was the exclamation upon every lip, though un- 
heard through the din. Nought but the coming of Comanches 
could have caused such a commotion — threatening to result in a 
stampede of the troop! 

For a time men ran shouting over the little lawn, or stood 
silent with scared countenances. 

Most having secured their horses, cowered behind them — 



A SERIES OF IKTSSLUDES. 821 

nsing them by way of shield against the chances of an Indian 
arrow. 

There were bat few npon the around accnstomed to such 
prairie escapades ; and the fears of the many were exaggerated 
by their inexperience to the extreme of terror. • 

It continned, till their steeds, all canght np, had ceased their 
wild whighering ; and only one was heard — the wretched crea- 
ture that had given them the cne. 

Then was discovered the true canse of the alarm ; as also 
that the Connemai*a man had stolen off. 

Fortunate for Phelim he had shown the good sense to betake 
liimself to the bushes. Only by concealment had he saved 
his skin : for his life was now worth scarce so much as that 
of his master. 

A score of rifles were clutched with angry energy, — their 
muzzles brought to bear upon the old mare. 

But before any of them could be discharged, a man standing 
iieai' threw his lazo around her neck, and choked her into 
silence. 

* * * « • 

Ti-anquillity is restored, and along with it a resumption of the 
deadly design. The Regulators are still in the same temper. 

The ludicrous incident, wliilst perplexing, has not provoked 
their mirth ; but the contrary. 

Some feel shame at the sorry figure they have cut, in the face 
of a false alarm ; while others are chafed at the interruption of 
the solemn ceremonial. 

They return to it with increased vindictiveness — as proved by 
their oaths, and angry exclamations. 

Once more the vengeful circle closes around the condemned 
— the terrible tableau is reconstructed. 

Once more the rufl&ans lay hold of the rope ; and for the 
second time every one is impressed with the solemn thought : 

** Soon must the soul of Maurice Gerald go back to its 
God!*' 

Thank heaven, there is another interruption to that stem 
ceremonial of death. 

How unlike to death is that bright form flitting imder the 
shadows, — flashing out into the open sunlight. 

" A woman ! a beautiful woman ! " 

'Tis only a silent thought ; for no one essays to speak. They 
stand rigid as ever, but with strangely altered looks. Even the 
rudest of them respect the presence of that fair intruder. 
Tliere is submission in their attitude, as if from a consciousness 
of guilt. 

Like a meteor she passes through their midst — glides on 
without giving a glance on either side — ^without speech, without 
cry — till she stoops over the condemned man, still lying gagged 
upon the grass. 

p3 



322 THE HEADLESS HOXSBHAN. 

Witli a quick clatch she lays hold of the lazo ; which the two 
hangmeD, tukcn by surprise, have let loose. 

Graspinc^ it with both her hands, she jerks it from theirs. 

" Texans I cowards !" she cries, casting a scomfnl look upon 
the crowd. " Shame I shame I'' 

They cower under the stinging reproach. 

She continues : — 

" A triul indeed ! A fair trial ! The accused without counsel 
— condemned without being heard I And this you call justice ? 
Texan justice ? My scorn upon you — not men, but murderers !" 

'' Wliat means tliis f" shouts Poindexter, rushing up, and seizing 
his daughtLT by the arm. ** You are mad — Loo — madl How come 
you to be here 't Did I not tell you to go home ? Away — ^this 
instant away ; and do not interfere with what does not concern 
you ! '» 

" Father, it does concern me I" 

" IIow ? — how '? — oh true — ^as a sister ! This man is the mur- 
derer of your brother." 

"I will not — cannot believe it. Xever — never! There was 
no motive. men I if you be men, do not act like savages. 
Give him a fiiir trial, and then — then '' 

"He's had a fair trial," calls one from the crowd, who seems 
to speak from instillation ; " Xe'er a doubt about his being guilty. 
It's him that's killed your brother, and nobody else. And it 
don't look well, Miss Poindexter — excuse me for saying it ; — but 
it don't look just the thing, thatyow should be trying to screen 
him from his descrvini^^'i;." 

** No, that it don't," chime in several voices. 

"Justice must take its course!" shouts one, in the hackneyed 
phrase of the law courts. 

" It must I — it must ! " echoes the chorus. 

" We arc soiTy to disobli^fc you, miss ; but we must request 
you to leave. Mr. Poindexter, you'd do well to take youi* 
daupfhter away." 

" Cunie, Loo ! 'Tis not the place for you. You must come 
away. Ycni refuse! Good God! my daughter; do you mean to 
disobey ino ? Here, Cash ; take hold of her arm, and conduct 
her from the spot. H you refuse to go willingly, we must use 
force, lioo. A good gii-1 now. Do as I tell you.* Go ! Go !" 

"No, iathcr, I will not— I .shall not — till you have promised 
— till these men promise " 

** We can't promise you anythiuLr, miss — ^liowever much we 
might like it. It ain't a (juestion i'ur women, no how. There's 
been a crime conmiitted— a murder, as ye youi-self know. There 
must be no cheating of justice. There's no mercy for a 
murderer ! *' 

"No iiiorey!" echo a ^coi-e of angiy voices. "Let him bo 
hanged-- hanged — hanged I " 

The Ktgulators are no longer restrained by the fair presence. 



STILL ANOTHER INTERLUDE. • 323 

Perhaps it has but hastened the fatal moment. The sonl of 
Cassius Calhoun is not the only one in that crowd stirred by the 
spirit of envy. The horse hunter is now hated for hia supposed 
good fortune. 

In the tumult of reven<yefal passion, all gallantry is forgotten, 
— tliat very wtue for "which the Texan is distinguished. 

The lady is led aside — dragged rather than led — by her consin, 
and at the command of her father. She struggles in the hated 
arms that hold her — wildly weeping, loudly protesting against 
the act of inhumanity. 

" Mon8t<;rs ! murderers !" are the phrases that fall fi-om her 
lips. 

Hor struggles arc resisted ; her speeches unheeded. She is 
borne back beyond the confines of the crowd — beyond the 
hoj)o of giving help to him, for whom she is willing to lay 
down her life ! 

Bitter are the speeches Calhoun is constrained to hear — heart- 
breaking the words now showered upon him. Better for him 
he had not taken hold of her. 

It scarce consoles him — ^that certainty of revenge. His riva 
will soon be no more; but what matters it? The fair foim 
writhing in his grasp can never be consentingly embraced. Ho 
may kill the hero of her heart, but not conquer for himself its 
most feeble affection ! 



CHAPTER LXV. 

STILL ANOTHER INTERLUDE. 

For a third time is the tableau reconstructed — spectators and 
actors in the dread drama taking their places as before. 

The lazo is once more passed over the limb ; the same two 
scoundrels taking hold of its loose end — this time drawing it 
towards them till it becomes taut. 

For the third time arises the reflection : 

" Soon must the soul of Maurice Gerald go back to its God !" 

Now nearer than ever does the unfortunate man seem to his 
end. Even love has proved powerless to save him ! What 
power on earth can be appealed to after this ? None likely to 
avail. 

But there appears no chance of succour — no time for it. 
There is no mercy in the stem looks of the Regulators — only 
impatience. The liangmen, too, appear in a hurry — as if they 
were in dread of another interruption. They manipulate the 
rope with the ability of experienced executioners. The phy- 
siognomy of either would give colour to the assumption, that 
they had been accustomed to the calling. 



324 THE HEIDLESS HOBSEMAH. 

In less than sixty seconds thej shall have finished the *' job." 

" Now then, Bill ! Are ye ready ? *' shonts one to the other 
— by the question proclaiming, that they no longer intend to wait 
for the word. 

" All right ! " responds Bill. " Up with the son of a skunk ! 
Up with him !" 

There is a pull upon the rope, but not sufficient to raise the 
body into an erect position. It tightens around the neck ; lifts 
the head a little from the ground, but nothing more ! 

Only one of the hangmen has given his strength to the pnU. 

" Haul, d — n you ! " cries Bill, astonished at the inaction of 
his assistant. ** Why the h — don't you haul ?" 

Bill's back is tunicd towards an intruder, that, seen by the 
other, has hindered him from lending a hand. He stands as if 
suddenly transformed into stone ! 

" Come !" continues the chief executioner. " Let's go t 
again — both together. Yee — up ! Up with him ! " 

"-Z\r(? ye don't r^ calls out a voice in the tones of a stentor ; 
while a man of colossal frame, carrying a six-foot rifle, is seen 
rushing out from among the trees, in strides that bring him 
almost instantly into the thick of the crowd. 

" No ye don't !" he repeats, stopping over the prostrate body, 
and bringing his long rifle to bear upon the ruffians of the rope. 
" Not yet a bit, as this coon kalkerlates. You, Bill Griffin ; pull 
that piece o* pleeted hoss-hair but the eighth o' an inch tighter, 
and ye'll git a blue pill in yer stummuk as won't agree wi* ye. 
Drop the rope, dum ye ! Drop it !" 

The screaming of Zcb Stump's mare scarce created a more 
sudden diversion than the appearance of Zeb himself — for it 
was he who had hurried upon the ground. 

He was known to nearly all present ; respected by most ; and 
feared by many. 

Among the last were Bill Grifiin, and his fellow rope-holder. 
No longer holding it ; for at the command to drop it, yielding to 
a quick perception of danger, both had let go ; and the lazo lay 
loose along the sward. 

"What durnod t(»m-foolcry's this, boys?" continues the 
colof^sus, addresbing himself to the crowd, still speechless fi*oni 
sur])rise. ** Ye don't mean liangin', do ye *r'* 

"We do," answers a stern voice. 

"And why not?" asks another. 

"Why not ! Ye'd hang a fellur-citizen 'ithout trial, wud ye ?" 

"Not much of a fellow-citizen — so far as that goes. Besides, 
he's had a trial — a fair trial." 

"I'deed. A human critier to be condem-ned wi' his brain in 
a state o' dulleeriuni I Sent out o' the "world 'ithout knowin 
that he's in it 1 Ye call that a fair trial, do ye ?" 

" What matters it, if we know he's guilty Y We're all satisfied 
about that." 



STILL AKOTHEB IMTERLUDE. 825 

" The h — 1 yc air ! Wagh ! I aint goin* to waste words 
wi' sech as you, Jim Stoddars. But for you, Sam Manly, an* 
yerself, Mister Peintdexter — slmrly ye aint agreed to this 
hyur proceedin,' which, in my opeenynn, 'ud be neythermore nor 
less 'n murder ?" 

*' You haven't heard all, Zeb Stxmip," interposes the Begulator 
Chief, with the design to justify his acquiescence in the act. 
" There are facts " 

" Facks be dumed ! An' fancies, too ! I don't want to hear 
'em. It'll be time enuf for thet, when the thing kum to a 
reg'lar trial ; the which shurly nob'dy hyur'll objeck to — seein' 
as thur aint the ghost o' a chance for him to git ofiP. Who air 
the individooal tliat objecks ?" 

" You take too much upon you, Zeb Stump. What is it your 
business, we'd like to know ? The man that's been murdered 
wasn't yowr son ; nor your brother, nor your cousin neither ! If 
he had been, you'd be of a different way of thinking, I take it." 

It is Calhoun who has made this interpolation — spoken before 
with so much success to his scheme. 

" I don't see that it concerns you," he continues, " what 
course we take in this matter." 

"But I do. It consams me — fust, because this young 
fellur's a fiiend o' mine, though he air Irish, an' a stronger; 
an' secondly, because Zeb Stump aint a goin' to stan' by, an' see 
foul play — even tho* it be on the purayras o' Texas." 

" Foul play be d — d ! There's nothing of the sort. And as 
for standing by, we'll see about that. Boys ! you're not going to 
be scared from your dufy by such swagger as this ? Let's make 
a finish of what we've begun. The blood of a murdered man 
cries out to us. Lay hold of the rope !" 

" Do ; an' by the etumal ! the fust that do '11 drop it a leetle 
quicker than he gimps it. Lay a claw on it — one o' ye — ^if ye 
darr. Ye may hang this poor critter as high's ye like ; but not 
till ye've laid Zeb'lon Stump streetched dead upon the grass, wi' 
some o' ye alongside o* him. Now then ! Let me see the skunk 
thet's goin' to tech thet rope !" 

Zob's speech is followed by a profound silence. Tho people 
keep their places — partly from the danger of accepting his chal- 
lenge, and partly from the respect due to his courage and gene- 
rosity. Also, because there is still some doubt in flie minds of 
the Regulators, both as to the expediency, and fairness, of the 
course which Calhoun is inciting them to take. 

With a quick instinct the old hunter perceives tho advan- 
tage he has gained, and presses it. 

"Gie the young fcllur a fair trial," urges he. "Let's take 
him to the settlement, an' hev' him tried thur. Ye've got no 
clur proof, that he's had any hand in the black bizncss ; and 
dum me ! if I'd believe it unless I seed it wi' my own eyes. I 
know how he feeled torst young Peintdexter. Instead o' bein' 



/. 



». 



i.' I 



•I 






'- i> , I il< flMI II I il it ■ III J II," 

'!'■■' i»' !■■• •' III'. Ill, ji'.il;.. loic of the "boys" 
• ••••"•'.. Ui ..II I M...-. ili.ii lliiiiy I 'riiri<K'xtor wouldn't a 

• ' '■•• •■ •■' •«"• •••• •• III ' Il 'ill" 'I'Im y'vc liuil a tns>Io, juid a 

'""'•• '•" •'"' limit wlijii';: .'/i vrii liiiu t lie SNvclliii* in 



STILL ANOTHER INTESLUDB. 327 

the knee. Besides, there's the mark of a blow upon his head — 
looks like it had been the butt of a pistol. As for the scratches* 
wo can't tell what's made them. Thorns may be ; or wolves if 
you like. Tliat foolish fellow of his has a story aboat a tiger ; 
but it won t do for us." 

" AVhat fellur air ye talkin o' ? Ye mean Irish Pheelom ? 
Where air he ?" 

" Stole away to save his carcass. "We'll find him, as soon as 
we've settled this business ; and I guess a little hanging will 
draw the truth out of him." 

"If yc mean abeout the tiger, yell draw no other truth out 
o' him than what ye've got a'ready. I see'd thet varmint myself, 
an' wur jest in time to save the young fellur from its claws. 
But thet aint the peint. Ye've haid holt o' the Irish, I 'spose. 
Did he tell ye o' nothin else he seed hyur ?" 

" Ho had a yarn about Indians. Who believes it ?'* 

" Wal ; he tolt me the same story, and that looks like some 
truth in't. Besides, he declurs they wur playin' curds, an hym-'s 
the things themselves. I found 'em lying scattered about the 
floor o' the shanty. Spanish curds they air." 

Zeb draws the pack out of his pocket, and hands it over to the 
lle^ulator Chief. 

The cards, on examination, prove to be of Mexican manufac- 
ture — such as are used in the universal game of inonti — ^the 
queen upon horseback "cavallo" — the spade represented by 
a sword "espada" — and the club"baston" symbolized by the 
huge paviour-like implement, seen in picture-books in the grasp 
of hairy Orson. 

" Who ever heard of Comanches playing cards ?" demands he, 
who has scouted the evidence about the Indians. " D — d 
ndiculous !" 

" Ridiklus ye say !" interposes an old trapper who had been 
twelve months a prisoner among the Comanches. "Ridiklas 
it may be ; but it's true fr all that. Many's the game this coon's 
seed them play, on a dressed bufiler hide for their table. That 
same Mexikin tnontajf too. I reckon they've lamed it from thar 
Mcxikin captives ; of the which they've got as good as three thon- 
sand in thar different tribes. Yes, sirree !" concludes the trapper. 
" The Keymanchees do play cards — sure as shootin'. " 

Zeb Stump is rejoiced at this bit of evidence, which is more 
than he could have given himself. It strengthens the case for 
the accused. The fact, of there having been Indians in the 
neighbourhood, tends to alter the aspect of the affair in the minds 
of the Rcgulatoi'S — ^hitherto under the belief that the Comanches 
were marauding only on the other side of the settlement. 

" Sartin sure," continues Zeb, pressing the point in favour of 
an adjournment of the trial, "thur's been Injuns hyur, or 
somothin' dumed like — Geesus Geehosofat ! "SVhar's she comin* 
from ?" 



•I i ■ .. 



;.' . I.-;.;./ ''.*» Ji • . V... . .i'i nt ;.' ]./.'*; h'.r. -.•/.:". 

"■'.'■•. II.. )...,,l.,l n. J. ,',.-.'i (■/,',!/• J:i.iv 'towards t'..v 

' '' • "'''■" I. 'III. "1/ I.. I', .1.1^ il,.,ij;.|, if v.:i-:* faint, VII ^nit-, 

" ' ■ '■' • •! Ill l»/ In I /. Ii'i I '111* I I, « (| it. 



CHASED BT C0MANCHE8. 829 

Taking her oa\ti heart as a standard, she was not one to lay 
much stress on tlic condescension of love: her own history was 
proof of its levelling power. Still was there the thought that 
her presence at the jacale had given pain, and might result in 
disaster to the happiness of her hated rival. 

Isidora had begun to dwell upon this with a sort of subdued 
pleasure ; that continued unchecked, till the time of her rencontre 
yyiih the Texans. 

On turning back with these, her spirits underwent a 
change. The road to be taken by Louise, should have been the 
same as that, by which she had herself come. But no lady was 
upon it. 

The Creole must have changed her mind, and stayed by 
the jacale — was, perhaps, at that very moment performing 
tlie metier Isidora had so fondly traced out for herself ? 

The belief that she was about to bring shame upon the woman 
who had brought ruin upon her, was the thought that now con- 
soled her. 

The questions put by Poindexter, and his companions, 
sufficiently disclosed the situation. Still clearer was it made by 
the final interrogations of Calhoun ; and, after her interrogators 
had passed away, she remained by the side of the thicket — half 
in doubt whether to ride on to the Leona, or go back and 
be the spectator of a scene, that, by her own contrivance, could 
scarce fail to be exciting. 



She is upon the edge of the chapparal, just inside the shadow 
of the timber. Sho is astride her grey steed, that stands with 
spread nostnl and dilated eye, gazing after the cavallada that has 
late parted from the spot — a single horseman in the rear of the 
rest. Her horse might wonder why he is being thus ridden 
about; but he is used to sudden changes in the will of his 
capricious rider. 

She is looking in the same direction — towards the alhue- 
huete ; — whose dark summit towers above the bluffs of the Alamo. 

She sees the searchers descend ; and, after them, the man who 
lias so minutely questioned her. As his head sinks below the 
level of the plain, she fancies herself alone upon it. 

In tliis fancy she is mistaken. 

She remains irresolute for a time — ten — fifteen — twenty 
minutes. 

Her thoughts are not to be envied. There is not much sweet- 
ness in the revenge, she believes herself instrumental in having 
accomplished. If she has caused humiliation to the woman she 
hates, along with it she may have brought ruin upon the man 
whom she loves ? Despite all that has passed, she cannot help 
loving him ! 

" &antie8ima Virgen /" she mutters with a fervent earnestness. 



" Wb**. Lire I d-j=:er If these zaoi— £m -Bftf^Worw— tlw 
dre*di&^ j^'^^^ ^'re Lcari of — ^if iher should find him goiltiri 
when: mar iiez^ir In ris death ! Mother of God ! I do not 
desire tLat. X i^: br their hazids — no ! no I How wfld their 
Wjkji ai-d ^-^ttTirca-^t^ni— determine-i ! And whoi I poinied 
out the waj^ ho-x qiiicklT tbej rc-ie oi vithoat further thought 
of me ! Ob. tLev k^ve ma^ie 'sd their ^^y^^*^ Don Mfturicio is to 
die ! And L*: a btransrtr among them — so hmve I heard. Xot 
of their coanirj. or kindrei : onlr of the smme race. Alone, 
friendless, with many enemies. Saluisiima I what am I thinking 
of r Ls not he, who has just left me, that cousin of whom Ftc 
hc^rd ■? j/frak ! -ly d^ mi 1 ' Now do I understand the cause of his 
questioning. HLs heart, like mine own — ^like mine own !" 

She sits with Ler gaze bent over the open plain. The grey 
Hteed fctill frets under restraint, though the carall^Eda has long 
hincc pa-ised out of sight. He but responds to the spirit of his 
rider ; which he knows to be vacillating — chafing under some 
irresolution. 

'Tis the hor.=c that first discovers a danger, or some- 
thing tliat scents of it. He proclaims it by a low tremulous 
neigh, as if to attract her attention ; while his head, tossed 
liack towards the chapparal, shows that the enemy is to be 
looked for in that direction. 

Who, or what is it r 

Warned Ia' the behaviour of her steed, Isidora faces to the 
thicket, and scans the path by which she has lately passed 
through it. It is the road, or trail, leading to the Leona. 'Tis 
only open to tlie eye for a straight stretch of about two hundred 
yards. Beyond, it Ixjcomes screened by the bushes, through 
which it goes circuitously. 

No one is seen upon it — nothing save two or three lean 
coyotes, that skulk under the shadow of the trees— scenting 
the shod tracks, in tlic hope of finding some scrap, that may 
have fallen from the hurrying horsemen. 

It is not tlieso that have caused the grey to show such excite- 
ment. He sees them ; but what of that ? The prairie-wolf is a 
sight to him neither startling, nor rare. There is something 
cIho— sonietliing he has either scented, or heard. 

Isidora listens : for a time without hearing aught to alarm 
her. I'he h(jwl-bark of the jackal does not beget fear at any 
time; much less in the joy of the daylight. She hears only this. 

Her thoughts again return to the ** Tejanos "—especially to 
him who hjis last parted from her side. She is speculating on 
the purpose lA' his earnest interrogation ; when once more she is 
internij)ted by the a(;tion of her horse. 

The unirmil shows impatience at being kept upon the spot ; 
HnufTs the air ; snorts ; and, at length, gives utterance to a neigh, 
far louder tlian l)efore ! 

Tliis time it is answered by several others, from horses that 



CHASED BT COMANCHIS. 331 

appear to be going along tlie road — ^thongh still hidden behind 
the trees. Their hoof-strokes are heard at the same time. 

But not after. The strange horses have either stopped short, 
or gone off at a gentle pace, making no noise ! 

Isidora conjectures the former. She believes the horses to be 
ridden ; and that their riders have checked them up, on hearing 
the neigh of her own. 

She quiets him, and listens. 

A humming is heard through the trees. Though indistmct, it 
can be told to be the sound of men's voices — holding a conver- 
sation in a low muttered tone. 

Presently it becomes hushed, and the chapparal is again silent. 
The horsemen, whoever they are, continue halted — ^perhaps hesi- 
tating to advance. 

Isidora is scarce astonished at this, and not much alarmed. 
Some travellers, perhaps, en route for the Rio Grande — or, it 
may be, some stragglers from the Texan troop — who, on hearing 
a horse neigh, have stopped from an instinct of precaution. It 
is only natural — at a time, when Indians are known to be on the 
war-path. 

Equally natural, that she should be cautious about encounter- 
ing the strangers — whoever they may be ; and, with this 
thought, she rides softly to one side — placing herself and her 
horse under cover of a mezquit tree; where she again sits 
listening. 

Not long, before discovering that the horsemen have com- 
menced advancing towards her — not along the travelled 
trail, but through the thicket ! And not all together, but as if 
they had separated, and were endeavouring to accomplish a 
surround ! 

She can tell this, by hearing the hoof- strokes in different direc- 
tions: all going gently, but evidently diverging from each other ; 
while the riders are preserving a profound silence, ominous 
either of cunning or caution — perhaps of evil intent ? 

They may have discovered her position? The neighing of 
her steed has betrayed it ? They may be riding to get round 
her — in order to advance from different sides, and make sure of 
her capture ? 

How is she to know that their intent is not hostile ? She 
has enemies — one well remembered — Don Miguel Diaz. Be- 
sides, there are the Comanches— to be distrusted at all times, 
and now no longer en paz. 

She begins to feel alarm. It has been long in arising ; but the 
behaviour of the unseen horsemen is at least suspicious. Ordi- 
nary travellers would have continued along the trail. These are 
sneaking through the chapparal ! 

She looks around her, scanning her place of concealment. 
She examines, only to distrust it. The thin, feathery frondage of 
the mezquit will not screen her from an eye passing near. 



332 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

The hoof-strokes tell, tliat more than one cavalier is coming that 
way. She must soon be discovered. 

At the thought, she strikes the spur into her horse* s side, 
and rides out from the thicket. Then, turning along the trail, 
she trots on into the open plain, that extends towards the 
Alamo. 

Her intention is to go two or three hundred yards — beyond 
range of arrow, or bullet — then halt, until she can discover the 
character of those who are advancing — whether friends, or to 
be feared. 

If the latter, she will trust to the speed of her gallant grey 
to carry her on to the protection of the " Tejanos." 

She 'does not make the intended halt. She is hindered by 
the horsemen, at that moment seen bursting forth from among 
the bushes, simultaneously with each other, and almost as soon 
as herself! 

They spring out at different points ; and, in converging lines, 
ride rapidly towards her ! 

A glance shows them to be men of bronze- coloured skins, and 
half naked bodies — with red paint on their faces, and scarlet 
feathers sticking up out of their hair. 

" Lo8 Indios /" mechanically mutters the Mexican, as, driving 
the rowels against the ribs of her steed, she goes off at full 
gallop for the alhuehtiete, 

A quick glance behind shows her she is pursued ; though she 
knows it without that. The glance tells her more, — that the pur- 
suit is close and earnest — so earnest that the Indians, contrary 
to their usual custom, do not yell I 

Their silence speaks of a determination to capture her ; and 
as if by a plan already preconcerted ! 

Hitherto she has had but little fear of an encounter with the 
red rovers of the prairie. For years have they been en paz — both 
with Texans and Mexicans ; and the only danger to be dreaded 
from them was a little rudeness when under the influence of 
drink — just as a lady, in civilized life, may dislike upon a lonely 
road, to meet a crowd of " navigators,*' who have been spending 
their day at the beer-house. 

Isidora has passed tlirough a penl of this kind, and remembers 
it — with less pain from the thought of the peril itself, than the 
ruin it has led to. 

But her danger is different now. The petico is past. There 

is war upon the wind. Her pursuers are no longer intoxicated 

with the fire-water of their foes. They are thirsting for blood ; 

and she flies to escape not only dishonour, but it may be death ! 

***** 

On over that open plain, with all the speed she can take out of 
her horse, — all that whip, and spur, and voice can accomplish ! 

She alone speaks. Her pursuers are voiceless — silent as 
spectres ! 



LOS nn)i08. 833 

Only once docs slie glance bebind. There are still but four 
of them ; but four is too many against one — and that one a 
woman ! 

There is no hope, unless she can get within hail of the Texans. 

She presses on for the alhuehuete. 



CHAPTER LXVII. 

LOS INDI08 ! 



As if in answer to the exclamation of the old hunter — or rather 
to the inten'ogatory with which he has followed it pip — comes 
the cry of the strange equestrian who has shown h€TS3lf on 
the cliff. 

" £os Indios ! Los Indios /" 

No one who has spent three days in Southern Texas could 
mistake the meaning of that phrase — whatever his native tongue. 
It is the alarm cry which, for three hundred years, has been 
hoard along three thousand miles of frontier, in three different 
languages — " Les Indiens ! Los Indios ! the Indians !" 

Dull would be the ear, slow the intellect, that did not at once 
comprehend it, along with the sense of its associated danger. 

To those who heai' it at the jacale it needs no translation. 
They know that she, who has given utterance to it, is pursued 
by Indians — as certain as if the fact had been announced in their 
own Saxon vernacular. 

They have scarce time to translate it into this — even in 
thought — when the same voice a second time salutes their ears : 
— " Tejanos ! Cavalleros ! save me ! save me ! Los Indios ! I am 
chased by a troop. They are behind me — close — close — —" 

Her speech, though continued, is no longer heard distinctly. 
It is no longer required to explain what is passing upon the 
plain above. 

She has cleared the first clump of tree tops by scarce twenty 
yards, when the leading savage shoots out from the same cover, 
and is seen, going in full gallop, against the clear sky. 

Like a sling he spins the lazo loop around his head. So 
eager is he to throw it with sure aim, that he does not appear to 
take heed of wliat the fugitive has said — spoken as she went 
at full speed : for she made no stop, while calling out to the 
** Tejanos.** He may fancy it has been addi'essed to himself — a 
final appeal for mercy, utt4?red in a language he does not under- 
stand : for Isidora had spoken in English. 

He is only undeceived, as the sharp crack of a rifle comes 
echoing out of the glen, — or perhaps a little sooner, as a sting- 
ing sensation in liis wrist causes him to let go his lazo, and look 
wonderingly for the why ! 



334 rzz HKAi'USf Hoicnu^. 

He T»=rct:T-r5 & p -5 : :' Fijpbz?*«:as snioke 'nsne finom below. 

A sir-z!e L-'lai.>r'ii ? Orient to f^-zx * d^anze in his tacncs. 

In xur. z-Iai-'.c Le beLlis a r.:ii.ir^i raez, -witii the gleam of 

Hi- *'ur*r^ z :'.'.. """^-ri s-rv :!L-:-n at lie sane lisae : azid fts if moved 
It :!►: sa=ie :iL:-:il*-r. Si" ::::r nm in ileir tracks, and gallop 
awav :r :li tie cliz — Q:i::r a^ ctdckiy as tier have been approach- 
iZiZ :t. 

•• ' T-r a r ::- :•:•..." savs Zeb Srtimp. p?^xe=-l£ng to reload his 
rife- •• If 't Leir.': a >.«:= ::r iLe s&tzzJ o' her. Fd a let 'em 
come en dc-nrn ::.o 2^>. Ef ire kei a captered them, we mont 
a ?■:: « rn^etLii.* ■:::•. o' 'em criLS^iniii:' tV^.g qtieer case o' ooni. 
Thar aint the ?T:ie!l o' a cLacce row. It's clnr they've goed 
off: ail* bv the timv we c^lt -p vander. thev'll be hellnid-'' 
•" • - •* • • • • • 

The •sitrLt of the ^avisres. hii^ prc-Incel another qtiick change in 
the tableau formv-i fr^ frint of the mnstancer's hnt— a change 
equal Iv sudden in tlie ihoticrhts of th>:>se who compose it. 

The majoriiv wLo deemc-l Maurice Gerald a murderer has 
becTime traiiJsf'jrnic-J into a minority: while those who believed him 
innr<:ent are now the m^^n whose opinions are respected. 

Calhoun and his bullies are no lon^rcT masters of the situation : 
and on the motion of their chief the Retrulator Juiy is adjonmed. 

The* new programme i< ca«t in double quick time. A score of 
words suffice to descrilx- it. The accused is to be carried to 
the settlement — there to be tried according to the law of the 
land. 

And now f.^r the Indian. — -^^h* -e opportune appearance has 
cau«<d thi.s sudden chan;?.-. br.th <^'f sentiment and design. 

Are they to lie pui--iued r That of course. 

IJui when r Upon the instant r 

Prudence says. no. 

Only four have l)een seen. But these are not likely to be 
alone. They may be the rcar-cruard of four hundred? 

'• Let us wait till the woman c^^'nies down," counsels one of the 
tinii«l. '• They have not followed her any farther. I think I can 
hear her ridincr t}ii< way ihrouirh the gulley. Of course she knows 
it — as it was she who directed u^." 

The sufri^estirm ap]>ears sensible to mo^t upon the ground. 
They are not coward.-. Still there are but few of them, who have 
encountered the wild Indian in actual strife: and many only 
know his more dcrbased brethren in the way of ti-ade. 

Thr- advice is adopted. They stand waiting fur the approach of 
Isidora. 

All are now by tluir horses : and sonic have sought shelter 
amonL*" the tnes. Tlun* are those who have an apprehension: 
that alone,' with the Mexican, or close after her, may still come 
a troop of CoTnanehes. 

A few arc otherwise occupied — Zeb Stump among the nnm- 



LOS INDIOS. 335 

ber. He takes the gag from between the teeth of the respited 
prisoner, and unties the thongs hitherto holding him too fast. 

There is one who watches him with a strange interest, bnt 
takes no part in the proceeding. Her part has been ahready 
played — perhaps too prominently. She shnnsthe risk of appearing 
farther conspicuous. 

Where is the niece of Don Silvio Mortimez ? 

She has not yet come upon the ground ! The stroke of her 
horse's hoof is no longer heard ! There has been time — ^more 
than time — for her to have reached the jacale ! 

Her non-appearance creates surprise — apprehension — alarm. 

Tlierc are men there who admire the Mexican maiden — it is 
not strange they should — some who have seen her before, and 
some who never saw her until that day. 

Can it be, that she has been overtaken and captured ? 

The interrogatory passes round. No one can answer it ; 
though all are interested in the answer. 

The Texans begin to feel something like shame. Their gal- 
lantry was appealed to, in that speech sent them from the cliff: 
"Tojanos! CavaUeros !" 

Has she who addressed it succumbed to the pursuer? Is 
that beauteous form in the embrace of a paint-bedaubed savage ? 

They listen with ears intent, — many with pulses that beat 
high, and hearts throbbing with a keen anxiety. 

They listen in vain. 

There is no sound of hoof — no voice of woman — ^nothing, 
except tlic champing of bitts hoard close by t^eir side ! 

Can it be that she is taken ? 

Now that the darker design is stifled within their breasts, the 
hostility against one of their own race is suddenly changed into 
a more congenial channel. 

Their vengeance, rekindled, bums fiercer than ever — since it is 
directed against the hereditary foe. 

The younger and more ardent — among whom are the admirers 
of the Mexican maiden — can bear the uncertainty no longer. 
They spring into their saddles, loudly declaring their determina- 
tion to seek her — to save her, or perish in the attempt. 

Who is to gainsay them ? Her pursuers — her captors perhaps 
— may be the very men they have been in search of — ^tho 
murderers of Henry Poindexter ! 

No one opposes their intent. They go off in search of Isidora 
— in pursuit of the praii'ie pirates. 

Those who remain are but few in number ; though Zeb Stump 
is among them. 

The old hunt^iT is silent, as to the expediency of pursuing the 
Indians. He kcc]>s his thoughts to himself: his only seeming 
care is to look after the invalid prisoner — still unconscious — 
^till jruarded by the Regiilatoi'S. 

Zeb is not the only friend who remains true to the mustangcr 



336 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

in Hs hour of distress. There are two others equally faithful. 
One a fair creature, who watches at a distance, carefully con- 
cealing the eager interest that consumes her. The other, a rude, 
almost ludicrous individual, who, close by his side, addresses the 
respited man as his " masther." The last is Phelim, who has just 
descended from his perch among the parasites of an umbrageous 
oak — where he has for some time steyed — a silent spectator of 
all that has been transpiring. The change of situation has 
tempted him back to earth, and the performance of that duty for 
which he came across the Atlantic. 

No longer lies our scene upon the Alamo. In another hour 
thejacal6 is deserted — perhaps never more to extend its pro- 
tecting roof over Maurice the mustanger. 

The chased equestrian is within three hundred yards of tbe 
bluff, over which the tree towers. She once more glances behind 
her. 

"2>/o« me ampare .'** (God preserve me.) 
God preserve her ! She will be too late ! 
The foremost of her pursuers has lifted the lazo from his 
saddle horn : he is winding it over his head ! 

Before she can reach the head of the pass, the noose will bo 
around her neck, and then — 

And then, a sudden thought flashes into her mind — a 

thought that promises escape from the threatened strangulation. 

The cliff that overlooks the Alamo is nearer than the gorge, 

by which the creek bottom must bo reached. She remembers 

that its (ircst is visible from the jacale. 

With a quick jerk upon the rein, she diverges from her 
course; and, instead of going on for the alhuehuete, she rides 
directly towards the bluft'. 

The change puzzles her pursuers — at the same time giving 
them gratification. Thoy well know the "lay'* of the land. 
They understand the trending of the cliff; and are now confident 
of a capture. 

The leader takes a fresh hoUl of his lazo, to make moro sure 
of the throw. He is only restrained from launching it, by 
the certainty she cannot escape. 

" Chingaro /" mutters he to himself, " if she go much farther, 
she'll be over the precipice ! " 

His reflection is false. She goes farther, but not over the 
precipice. With another quick pull upon the rein she has 
changed her course, and rides along the edge of it — so close as 
to attract the attention of tlu) " Tejanos " below, and elicit from 
Zeb Stump that quaint exclamation — only heai-d upon cxtra^ 
ordinary occasions,— 
** Geesus Geehosofat !" 



337 



CHAPTER LXVIII. 

THE DISAPPOINTED CAMPAIGNESS. 

The campaign against the Comanclies proved one of the 
shortest — lasting only three or four days. It was discovered 
that these Ishmaelites of the West did not mean war — at least, 
on a grand scale. Their descent upon the settlements was only 
the freak of some young fellows, about to take out their degree 
as braves, desirous of signalizing the event by " raising " a few 
scalps, and capturing some horses and homed cattle. 

Forays of this kind are not unfrequent among the Texan 
Indians. They are made on private account — often without 
the knowledge of the chief, or elders of the tribe — just as an 
ambitious young mid, or ensign, may steal off with a score 
of companions from squadron or camp, to cut out an enemy's 
craft, or capture his picket guard. These marauds are usually 
made by young Indians out on a hunting party, who wish to re- 
turn home with something to show besides the spoils of the 
chase ; and the majority of the tribe is oftien ignorant of them 
till long after the event. Otherwise, they might be interdicted 
by the elders ; who, as a general thLog, ara averse to such Jllu 
blistering expeditions — deeming them not only imprudent, but 
often injurious to the interests of the community. Only when 
successml are they applauded. 

On the present occasion several young Comanches had 
taken out their war-diploma, by carrying back with them 
the scalps of a number of white women and boys. The 
horses and horned cattle were also collected ; but these, being 
less convenient of transport than the light scalp-locks, had been 
recaptured. 

The red-skinned filibusters, overtaken by a detachment of 
Mounted Rifles, among the hills of the San Saba, were com- 
pelled to abandon their four-footed booty, and only saved their 
own skins by a forced retreat into the fastnesses of the " Llano 
Estacado." 

To follow them beyond the borders of this sterile tract 
would have required a commissariat less hastily established than 
that with which the troops had sallied forth ; and, although 
the relatives of the scalped settlers clamoured loudly for retaba- 
tion, it could only be promised them after due time and 
preparation. 

On discovering that the Comanches had retreated beyond their 
neutral ground, the soldiers of Uncle Sam had no choice but to 
return to their ordinary duties — each detachment to its own fort 

Q 



1 1 

I 



338 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAN. 

— ^to await frirtlicr commands from the head-quarters of th 
"department." 

The troops belonging to Fort Inge — entrusted with th< 
guardianship of the country as far as the Rio Nneoes — ^were sur 
prised on getting back to their cantonment to discorer that the^ 
had been riding in the wrong direction for an encounter with th 
Indians ! Some of them were half mad with disappointmenf 
for there were sereral — jonng Hancock among the number— 
who had not yet run their swords through a red-skin, thongl 
keenly desirous of doing so ! 

No doubt there is inhumanity in the idea. But it must b 
remembered, that these ruthless savages have giyen to thi 
white man peculiar provocation, by a thousand repetitioiis o 
three diabolical crimes — rape, rapine, and murder. 

To talk of their being the aborigines of the country — ^the real 
but dispossessed, owners of the soil — is simple nonsense. Thi 
sophism, of the most spurious kind, has too long held dominio] 
over the minds of men. The whole human race has an inheren 
right to the whole surface of the earth : and if any infinitesinia 
fraction of the former by chance finds itself idly roaming ove 
an extended portion of the latter, their exclusive claim to it i 
almost too absurd for argument — even with the narrowest 
minded disciple of an aborigines society. 

Admit it — give the Jiunter his half-dozen square miles — for h( 
will require that much to maintain him — leave him in undisputec 
possession to all eternity — and millions of fertile acres mns 
remain untilled, to accommodate this whimsical theory of nationa 
right. Nay, I will go further, and risk reproach, by asserting :— 
that not only the savage, so called, but civilized people shoulc 
be unreservedly dispossessed — whenever they show themselves 
incapable of turning to a good account the resources which Nature 
has placed within their limits. 

The exploitation of Earth's treasures is a question not con- 
fined to nations. It concerns the whole family of mankind. 

In all this there is not one iota of agrarian doctrine— not a 
thought of it. He who makes these remarks is the last man tc 
lend countenance to com m tin is?n . 

It is true that, at the time spoken of, there were ruflfians 
in Texas who held the life of a red-skin at no higher value than 
an English gamekeeper does that of a stoat, or any other vermin, 
that trespasses on his preserves. No doubt these ruffians arc 
there still : for ten years cannot have efiectcd much change in the 
morality of the Texan frontier. 

But, alas ! we must now bo a little cautious about calling 
names. Our own story of Jamaica — by heaven! the blackest 
that has blotted the pages of history — has whitewashed these 
hordev Jilibusteros to the seeming purity of snow ! 

If things are to bo judged by comparison, not so fiendish, then, 
need appear the fact, that the young officers of Fort Inge were 



THE DISAPPOINTED CAMPAIGNERS. 339 

some little chagrined at not having an opportunity to slay a 
score or so of red- skins. On learning that, during their absence, 
Indians had been seen on the other side, they were inspired 
by a new hope. They might yet find the opportunity of fleshing 
their swords, transported without stain — without sharpening, 
too — from the military school of West Point. 

It was a fresh disappointment to them, when a party came in 
on the same day — civilians who had gone in pursuit of the 
savages seen on the Alamo — and reported : that no Indians had 
been there ! 

They came provided with proofs of their statement, which 
otherwise would have been received with incredulity — con- 
sidering what had occurred. 

The proofs consisted in a collection of miscellaneous articles 
— an odd lot, as an auctioneer would describe it — ^wigs of 
horse-hair, cocks' feathers stained blue, green, or scarlet, breech- 
clouts of buckskin, mocassins of the same material, and several 
packages of paint, all which they had found concealed in the 
cavity of a cottonwood tree ! 

There could be no new campaign against Indians ; and the 
aspiring spirits of Fort Inge were, for the time, forced to content 
themselves >vith such incidents as the situation afforded. 

Notwithstanding its remoteness from any centre of civilized 
life, these were at the time neither tame nor uninteresting. 
There were several subjects worth thinking and talking about. 
There was the arrival, still of recent date, of the most beautiftd 
woman ever seen upon the Alamo ; the mysterious disappearance 
and supposed assassination of her brother ; the yet more myste- 
rious appearance of a horseman without a head ; the trite story 
of a party of white men "playing Indian"; and last, though 
not of least interest, the news that the suspected murderer had 
been caught, and was now inside the walls of their own guard- 
house — ^mad as a maniac ! 

There were other tales told to the disappointed campaigners — 
of sufficient interest to hinder them from thinking : that at 
Fort Inge they had returned to dull quarters. The name of 
Isidora Covarubio de los Llanos — with her masculine, but mag- 
nificent, beauty — had become a theme of conversation, and some- 
thing was also said, or surmised, about her connection with the 
mystery that occupied all minds. 

The details of the strange scenes upon the Alamo — ^the 
discovery of the mustanger upon his couch — the determination 
to hang him — the act delayed by the intervention of Louise 
Poindexter — the respite due to the courage of Zeb Stump — were 
all points of the most piquant interest — suggestive of the 
wildest conjectures. 

Each became in turn the subject of converse and commentary, 
but none was discussed with more earnestness than that which 
related to the innocence, or guilt, of the man accused of murder. 

q2 



840 THE HEADLESS HOBSEMAN. 

" Murder," said the philosophic Captain Sloman, " is a crini 
which, in my opinion, Maaiice the mostanger is incapable < 
committing. I think, I know the fellow well enough to be su 
about that." 

"You'll admit," rejoined Grossman, of the Rifles, "that tl 
circumstances are strong against him? Almost conclosiTe, 
should say." 

Grossman had never felt friendly towards the yotuig Irisl 
man. He had an idea, that on one occasion the commissary 
niece — the belle of the Fort — had looked too smilingly on tt 
unknown adventurer. 

" I consider it anything but conclusive," replied Sloman. 

" There's no doubt about young Poindexter being dea< 
and having been murdered. Every one believes that. Well 
who else was likely to have done it? The cousin swears i 
having overheard a quarrel between him and Gerald." 

" That precious cousin would swear to anything that suited hi 
purpose," interposed Hancock, of the Dragoons. " Besides, hi 
o^vn shindy with the same man is suggestive of suspicion — ^i 
i it not?" 

I " And if there was a quarrel," argued the officer of infantry 

" what then ? It don't follow there was a murder." 

" Then you think the fellow may have killed Poindexter in 
fiir fight?" 

" Something of the sort is possible, and even probable. I wi] 
admit that much." 

" But what did they have a difficulty about ? " asked Hancock 
"I heard that young Poindexter was on friendly terms wit] 
the horse-hunter — notwithstanding what had happened betweei 
him and Galhoun. What could they have quarrelled about?" 

"A singular interrogation on your part, Lieutenant Han- 
cock ! " answered the infantry officer, with a significant emphasis 
on the pronoun. " As if men ever quarrelled about anything 
except " 

"Except women," interrupted the dragoon with a laugh. 

" But which woman, I wonder ? It could not be anything 
j relating to young Poindexter's sister? " 

" Quien sale ? " answered Sloman, repeating the Spanish 
phrase with an ambiguous shrug of the shoulders. 

" Preposterous ! " exclaimed Grossman. " A horse-catcher 
daring to set his thoughts on Miss Poindexter ! Preposterous ! " 
\ "What a frightful aristocrat you are, Grossman! Don't 
you know that love is a natural democrat; and mocks your 
artificial ideas of distinction. I don't say that in this case 
there's been anything of the kind. Miss Poindexter's not the 
only woman that might have caused a quarrel between the 
two individuals in question. There are other damsels in the 
settlement worth getting angry about — to say nothing of our 
own fair following in the Fort ; and why not " 



THE DISAPPOINTED CAMPAIGNERS. 841 

" Captain Sloman," petulantly interrupted the lieutenant of 
Rifles. " I must say that, for a man of your sense, you talk very 
inconsiderately. The ladies of the garrison ought to be grateful 
to you for the insinuation,** 

*• What insinuation, sir ? ** 

" Do you suppose it likely that there's one of them would 
condescend to speak to the person you've named ? " 

"Which? Fve named two.*' 

" You understand me well enough, Sloman ; and I you. Our 
ladies will, no doubt, feel highly complimented at having their 
names connected with that of a low adventurer, a horse-thief, 
and suspected assassin ! " 

" Maurice the mustanger may be the last — suspected, and that 
is all. He is neither of the two first; and as for our ladies 
])eiiig above speech with him, in that as in many other things, 
you may be mistaken, Mr. Grossman. I've seen more of this 
young Irishman than you— enough to satisfy me that, so far as 
breeding goes, he may compare notes with the best of us. 
Our grand dames needn't be scared at the thought of his 
acquaintance ; and, since you have raised the question, I don't 
think they would shy from it — some of them at least — if it were 
offered them. It never has. So far as I have observed, the 
young fellow has behaved with a modesty that betokens the true 
gentleman. I have seen him in their presence more than once, 
and he has conducted himself towards them as if ftdly sei\sible 
of his position. For that matter, I don't think he cares a straw 
about one or other of them." 

" Indeed ! How fortunate for those, who might otherwise 
have been his rivals ! " 

" Perhaps it is," quietly remarked the captain of infantry. 

"Who knows? " asked Hancock, intentionally giving a turn 
to the ticklish conversation. " Who knows but the cause of 
quarrel — if there's been one — might not bo this splendid 
seiiorita so much talked about ? I haven't seen her myself ; but, 
by all accounts, she's just the sort to make two fellows as jealous 
as a pair of tiger-cats." 

" It might be who knows ?" drawled Grossman, who found 

contentment in the thought that the handsome Irishman might 
have his amorous thoughts turned in any other direction than 
towards the commissary's quarters. 

. " They've got him in the guard-house," remarked Hancock, 
stating a fact that had just been made known to him : for the 
conversation above detailed occurred shortly after their return 
from the Gomanche campaign. " His droll devil of a serving 
man is along with him. What's more ; the major has just issued 
an order to double the guard! What does it mean, Gaptain 
Sloman — you who know so much of this fellow and his affairs ? 
Surely there's no danger of his making an attempt to steal out 
of his prison ? " 



342 THE HEADLESS HOBSEHAN. 

"Not likely," replied the infSwitry officer, ''seeing^ that he 
hasn't the slightest idea that he*s inside of one. IVe just been 
to the guard-house to have a look at him. He's mad as a 
March hare; and wouldn't know his own face in a looking- 
glass." 

" Mad ! In what way ? " asked Hancock and the others, who 
were yet but half enlightened about the circmnstances of the 
mustanger's capture. 

" A brain fever upon him — delirious ? " 

" Is that why the guards have been doubled ? Deviliah queer 
if it is. The major himself must have gone mad ! " 

" Maybe it's the suggestion — command I should rather say — 
of the majoress. Ha ! ha ! ha ! " 

" But what does it mean ? Is the old maje really afraid of his 
getting out of the guard-house ? " 

" No — not that, I fancy. More likely an apprehension of 
somebody else getting into it." 

** Ah ! you mean, that " 

" I mean that for Maurice the Mustanger there's more safety 
inside than out. Some queer characters are about ; and there's 
been tiilk of another Lynch trial. The Regulators either repent 
of having allowed him a respite ; or there's somebody hard at 
work in bringing about this state of public opinion. It's 
lucky for him tliat the old hunter lias stood his fiiend ; and 
it's but a continuation of his good luck that we've returned so 
opportunely. Another day, and we might have found the gnard- 
house empty — so far as its present occupants are concerned. 
Now, thank God ! the poor fellow shall have a fair trial." 

" \VTien is it to take place ? " 

" Whenever he has recovered his senses, sufficiently to know 
that he's being tried ! " 

" It may be weeks before that." 

" And it may be only days — hours. He don't appear to be 
very bad — that is, bodily. It's bis mind that's out of order — more, 
perhaps, from some strange trouble that has come over him, 
than any serious hurt he has received. A day may make all the 
diffijrence ; and, from what I've just heard, the Regulators will 
insist on his being tried as soon as he shows a return to con- 
sciousness. They say, they won't wait for him to recover fix)m 
his wounds ! " 

"Maybe he'll be able to tell a story that'll clear him. I 
hope so." 

This was said by Hancock. 

" I doubt it," rejoined Grossman, with an incredulous shake 
of the head. Nous verrons ! " 

"I'm sure of it," said Sloman. ^^Nos veremosT* he added, 
speaking in a tone that seemed founded less upon confidence 
than a wish that was father to the thought. 



843 
CHAPTER LXIX. 

MYSTERY AND MOURNING. 

There is mourning in the mansion of Casa del Corvo, and 
mystery among the members of Woodley Poindexter's &mily. 

Though now only three in number, their intercourse is less 
frequent than before, and marked by a degree of reserve that 
must spring from some deep-seated cause. 

They meet only at the hour of meals — then conversing only on 
such topics as cannot well be shunned. 

There is ample explanation of the sorrow, and much of the 
solemnity. 

The death — no longer doubted — of an only son — an only 
brother — unexpected and still unexplained — should account for 
ihe melancholy mien both of father and daughter. 

It might also explain the shadow seated constantly on the brow 
of tlie cousin. 

But there is something beyond this. Each appears to act with 
an irksome restraint in the presence of the others — even during 
tlie rare occasions, on which it becomes necessary to converse 
on the family misfortune ! 

Beside the sorrow common to all three, they appear to have 
separate griefs that do not, and cannot, commingle. 

The once proud planter stays within doors — ^pacing from room 
to room, or around the enclosed corridor — bending beneath a 
weight of woe, that has broken down his pride, and threatens to 
break his heart. Even strong paternal affection, cruelly be- 
reaved, can scarce account for the groans, oft accompanied by 
muttered curses, that are heard to issue from his lips ! 

Calhoun rides abroad as of yore ; making his appearance only 
at the hours of eating and sleeping, and not regularly then. 

For a whole day, and part of a night, he has been absent from 
the place. No one knows where ; no one has the right to 
inquire. 

Louise confines herself to her own room, though not con- 
tinuously. There are times when she may be seen ascending to 
the azotea — alone and in silent meditation. 

There, nearer to Heaven, she seeks solace for the sorrows that 
have assailed her upon Earth — the loss of a beloved brother — the 
fear of losing one far more beloved, though in a different sense 
— perhaps, a little also, the thought of a scandal already attach- 
ing to her name. 

Of these three sorrows the second is the strongest. The last 
but little troubles her ; and the first, for awhile keenly felt, is 
gradually growing calmer. 

But the second — the supreme pain of all — is but strengthened 
and intensified by time ! 



844 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

She knows that Maurice Gerald is shut up within the walls of 
a prison — ^the strong walls of a military guard-house. 

It is not their strength that dismays her. On the contrary, 
she has fears for their weakness ! 

She has reasons for her apprehension. She has heard 
of the rumours that are abroad ; rumours of sinister significance. 
She has heard talk of a second trial, under the presidency of 
Judge Lynch and his rude coadjutors — not the same Judge 
Lynch who officiated in the Alamo, nor all of the same jury ; but 
a coxLrt still less scrupulous than that of the Regulators ; com- 
posed of the ruffianism, that at any hour can be collected within 
the bounds of a border settlement — especially when proximate 
to a military post. 

The reports that have thus gone abroad are to some a subject 
of surprise. Moderate people see no reason why the prisoner 
should be again brought to trial in that irregular way. 

The facts, that have late come to light, do not alter the case 
—at least, in any way to strengthen the testimony against him. 

If the four horsemen seen were not Indians — and this has 
been clearly shown by the discovery of the disguises — it is not 
the less likely that they have had to do with the death of young 
Poindexter. Besides, there is nothing to connect them with the 
mustanger, any more than if they had been real Comanches. 

Why, then, this antipathy against the respited prisoner, for the 
second time surging up ? 

There is a strangeness about the thing that perplexes a good 
many people. 

There are a few that understand, or suspect, the cause. A 
very few : perhaps only three individuals. 

Two of them are Zeb Stump and Louise Poindexter; the 
third Captain Cassius Calhoun. 

The old hunter, with instinct keenly on the alert, has dis- 
covered some underhanded action — the actors being Miguel 
Diaz and his men, associated with a half-score of like characters 
of a different race — the " rowdies " of the settlement. Zeb has 
traced the action to its instigator — the ex-captain of volunteer 
cavalry. 

He has communicated his discovery to the young Creole, who 
is equal to the understanding of it. It is the too clear compre- 
hension of its truth that now inspires her with a keen solicitude. 

Anxiously she awaits every word of news — watches the road 
leading from the Fort to Casa del Corvo, as if the sentence of 
her own death, or the security of her life, hung upon the lips of 
some courier to come that way ! 

She dares not show herself at the prison. There are soldiers 
on guard, and spectators around it — a crowd of the idle curious, 
who, in all countries, seem to feel some sort of sombre enjoyment 
in the proximity of those who have committed great crimes. 

There is an additional piquancy in the circumstances of this 



MTSTERY AND MOUBKIKQ. 345 

one. The criminal is insane ; or, at all events, for the time out 
of his senses. 

The guard-house doors are at all hours besieged — to the great 
discomfort of the sentries — by people eager to listen to the 
mutterings of the delirious man. A lady could not pass in with- 
out having scores of eyes turned inquiringly upon her. Louise 
Poindexter cannot run the gauntlet of those looks without risk 
to her reputation. 

Lefb to herself, perhaps she would have attempted it. Watched 
by a &ther whose suspicions are already awskkened ; by a near 
relation, equally interested in preserving her spotless, before the 
eyes of the world — she has no opportunity for the act of impru- 
dence. 

She can only stay at home ; now shut up in her solitary 
chamber, solaced by the remembrance of those ravings to which 
she had listened upon the Alamo ; now upon the azotea, cheered 
by the recollection of that sweet time spent among the mezquite 
trees, the spot itself almost discernible, where she had surrendered 
the proudest passion of her heart ; but saddened by the thought 
tliat he to whom she surrendered it is now humiliated — dis- 
graced — shut up within the walls of a gaol — perchance to be 
delivered firom it only unto death ! 

To her it was happy tidings, when, upon the morning of the^ 
fourth day, Zeb Stump made his appearance at Casa del Corvo, 
bringing the intelligence that the ** hoss-sogers hed kum back 
to the Fort." 

There was significance in the news thus ungrammatically im- 
parted. There was no longer a danger of the perpetration of 
that foul act hitherto apprehended : a prisoner taken from his 
guards, not for rescue, but ruin ! 

"Ee needn't be uneezy *beout thet ere ewent," said Zeb, 
speaking with a confidence he had not shown for some time. 
'* Thur's no longer a danger o' it comin* to pass, Miss Lewaze^ 
I've tuk preecaushins agin it." 

" Precautions I How, Zeb ? " 

" Wal ; fust place, IVe seed the major clost arter his comin*' 
back, an' gied him a bit o' my mind. I tolt him the hul story, 
as for's I know it myself. By good luck he ain't agin the young 
fellur, but the tother way I reck'n. Wal, I tolt him o' the 
goin's on o' the hul crew — ^Amerikins, Mexikins, an' all o' them 
— not forgettin' thet ugly Spanyard o' the name o' Dee-ez, thet's 
been one o' the sarciest o' the lot. The ree-sult's been thet the 
major hez doubled the sentries roun' the prison, an's goin' to keep 
'em doubled." 

"I am so glad! You think there is no longer any fear 
from that quarter ? " 

" If you mean the quarter o' Mister Migooel Dee-ez, I kin 
swar to it. Afore he thinks o' gittin' any b'dy else out o' a 
prison, he's got to git hisself out." 

Q 3 



846 THE HEADLESS HOBSBELAK. 

"What; Diaz in prison ! How? When? Where?" 

" You Ve asked three seprit questyuns, Miss Lewaze, all o* a 
heep. Wal ; I reck'n the conveenientest way to answer 'em 'U 
be to take 'em backnrds. An' fast as to the whar. As to thet, 
thnr's but one prison in these parts, as 'ud be likely to hold 
him. Thet is the gnard-house at the Fort. He's thur." 

"Along with " 

" I know who ye're goin' to name — the young fellur. Jest so. 
They're in the same bmldin', tho' not 'ssackly in the same room. 
Thur's a purtition atween 'em; tho' for thet matter they kin 
convarse, ef they're so inclined. Thur's three others shet up 
along wi' the Mexikin — his own cussed cummarades. The three 
'11 have somethin' to talk 'beout 'mong themselves, I reck'n." 

" This is good news, Zeb. You told me yesterday that 
Diaz was active in " 

" Gittin' hisself into a scrape, which he hev been successful 
in effectuatin'. He's got hisself into the jug, or someb'y else 
hcv did thet bizness for him." 

" But how — when — ^you've not told me ? " 

" Geehosophat ! Miss Lewaze. Gi' me a leetle time. I hain't 
drew breath yit, since I kim in. Yur second questyun war 
when. It air eezy answered. 'Beout a hour agone thet ere 
varmint wur trapped an' locked up. I war at the shettin' o' the 
door ahint him, an' kum straight custrut hyur arter it war 
done." 

" But you have not yet said why he is arrested." 

" I hain't hed a chance. It air a longish story, an' 'U take a 
leetle time in the tellin'. WiQ ye listen to it now, or arter ? " 

" After what, Mr. Stump ? " 

" Wal, Miss Lewaze, I only meened arter — arter — I git the 
ole mare put up. She air stannin' thur, as if she'd like to chaw 
a yeer o' corn, an' somethin' to wet it down. Both she 'nd me's 
been on a longish tramp afore we got back to the Fort ; which 
we did scace a hour ago." 

" Pardon me, dear Mr. Stump, for not thinking of it. Pluto ; 
take Mr. Stump's horse to the stable, and see that it is fed. 
Florinde ! Florinde ! What will you eat, Mr. Stump ? " 

" Wal, as for thet. Miss Lewaze, thank ye all the same, but I 
ain't so partikler sharp set. I war only thinkin' o' the maar. 
For myself, I ked go a kupple o' hours longer 'ithout eetin', 
but ef thur's sech a thing as a smell o' Monongaheely 'beout the 
place, it 'ud do this ole karkidge o* mine a power o' good." 

" Monongahela ? plenty of it. Surely you will allow me to 
give you something better? " 

" Better 'n Monongaheely ! " 

" Yes. Some sherry — champagne — ^brandy if you prefer it." 

" Let them drink brandy as like it, and kin' git it drinkable. 
Thur may be some o' it good enuf ; an' ef thur air, I'm shur 
it'll be foun' in the house o' a Peintdexter. I only knows o' the 



GO, ZEB, Am) QOD SPEED TOU ! 847 

sort the sutler keeps up at the Fort. Ef thxu* ever war a medi- 
cincy thet's one. It *Tid rot the guts out o' a allejgatur. No ; 
dam thur French lickers ; an' Bpeciallj thur brandy. QV me 
the pure com juice ; an' the best o' all, thet as comes from Pitts- 
burg on the Monongaheely." 

" Florinde ! Florinde ! " 

It was not necessary to tell the waiting-maid for what she 
was wanted. The presence of Zeb Stump indicated the service 
for which she had been summoned. Without waiting to receiye 
the order she went oflf, and the moment after returned, carrj^iog 
a decanter half-filled with what Zeb called the " pure com jmoe,** 
but which was in realiiy the essence of rye — for from this grain 
is distilled the celebrated *' Monongahela." 

Zeb was not slow to refresh himself. A full third of the con- 
tents of the decanter were soon put out of sight — the other two- 
thirds remaining for future potations that might be required 
in the course of the narration upon which he was about to enter. 



CHAPTER LXX. 

00, ZEB, AND GOD SPEED TOU ! 

The old hunter never did things in a hurry. Even his style 
of drinking was not an exception ; and although there was no 
time wasted^ he quaffed the Monongahela in a formal leisorelj 
manner. 

The Creole, impatient to hear what he had to relate, did not 
wait for him to resume speech. 

" Tell me, dear Zeb," said she, after directing her maid to 
withdraw, " why have they arrested this Mexican — ^Miguel Diaz 
I moan? I think I know something of the man. I have 
reasons." 

"An* you ain't the only purson may hev reozuns for knowin* 
him, Miss Lewaze. Yur brother — but never mind 'beout that — 
leastwise not now. What Zeb Stump do know, or strongly 
surspect, air, thet this same-mentioned Migooel Dee-ez hev had 
somethin' to do wi' — You know what I'm re&rrin' to ? " 

" Go on, Mr. Stump ! " 

" Wal, the story air this. Arter wo kim from the Alamo Crik, 
the fellurs that went in sarch o' them Injuns, foun' out they 
wan't Injuns at all. Ye hev hecm that yurself. From the 
fixins that war diskevered in the holler tree, it air clur that 
what we seed on the Bluff war a party o' whites. I hed a 
surspishun o't myself — soon as I seed them curds they'd left 
ahint 'em in the shanty." 

'^ It was the same, then, who visited the jacale at night — the 
same Phelim saw P " 



34i8 THE BEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

"Ne'er a doubt o' it. Them same MexiMns." 

" What reason have yon to think they were Mexicans ? " 

" The best o' all reeznns. I foun' 'em out to be ; traced the hnl 
Irit o* 'em to thur caehS,** 

The young Creole made no rejoinder. Zeb's story promised 
a revelation that might be favourable to her hopes. She stood 
resi^edly waiting for him to continue. 

" X e see, the curds, an' also some words, the which the Irish 
war able to sort o' pemounce, arter a fashun o' his own, tolt me 
they must a been o' the yeller-belly breed; an' sartint 'bout 
that much, I war able to gie a tol'able guess as to whar they 
hed kim from. I know'd enuf o' the Me^aldns o' these parts to 
think o' four as answered thar descripshun to a T. As to the 
Injun duds, thar wam't nuthin' in them to bamboozle me. Arter 
this, I ked a gone straight to the hul four fellurs, an' pinted 'em 
out for sartin. One o' 'em, for sure sartin. On him I'd made 
my mark. I war confident o' havin' did thet." 

" Your mark ! How, Zeb ? " 

" Ye remimber the shot I fired from the door o' the shanty ? " 

" Oh, certainly ! I did not see the Indians. I was under the 
trees at the time. I saw yon discharge your rifle at something.'* 

"Wal, Miss Lewaze; this hyur coon don't often dischurge 
thet thur weepun 'ithout drawin' blood. I know'd I hut the 
skunk ; but it war rayther fur for the carry o' the piece, an* 
I reckon'd the ball war a bit spent. F'r all that, I know'd it must 
a stung him. I seed him squirm to the shot, an' I says to myselT: 
Ef ther ain't a hole through his hide somewhar, this coon won't 
mind changin' skins wi' hSn. Wal, arter they kim home wi' the 
story o' whites instead o' red-skins, I hed a tol'able clur idee o' 
who the sham Injuns wur, an' ked a laid my claws on 'em at 
any minnit. But I didn't." 

"And why not, Mr. Stump? Surely you haven't allowed 
them to get away ? They might be the very men who are guilty 
of my poor brother's — " 

"That's jest what this coon thort, an' it war for thatreezun I 
let 'em slide. There war another reezun besides. I didn't 
much like goin' fiir from the Fort, leest somethin' ugly mout 
turn up in my absince. You unnerstan' ? There war another 
reezun still for not prospectin' arter them jest then. I wanted 
to make shur o' my game." 

" And you have ? " 

"Shur as shootin'. I guessed thur wan't goin' to be any 
rain, an' thui-for thur war no immeedyit hurry as to what I in- 
tended doin'. So I waited till the sogers shed get back, an' I 
ked safely leave him in the guard-house. Soon as they kim 
in, I tuk the ole maar and rud out to the place whar our 
fellurs had struck upon the fixins. I eezy foun' it by thur 
descripshun. Wal ; as they'd only got that greenhorn, Spangler, 
to guide 'em, I war putty sure the sign hedn't been more'n helf 



00) ZEB) AND GOD SPEED YOU ! 849 

read ; an' that Pd get somethin' out o' it, beside wliat they'd 
brought away." 

"1 wan't disappinted. The dumdest fool as ever set fut 
upon a purayra, mout a follered the back track o' them xnake- 
bolieve Kimanchees, A storekeeper ked a traced it acrost the 
purayra, though it appears neyther Mister Spangler nor any o' 
the others did. I foun' it eezy as fallin' off o' a log, not'ithstandin' 
thet the sarchers had rud all over it. I tracked every hoss o' 
the four counterfits to his own stable." 

"After that?" 

" Arter doin' thet I hed a word wi' the major ; an' in helf an 
hour at the most the four beauties wur safe shet up in the guard- 
house — the chief o' 'em bein' jugged fiist, leest he mout get 
wind o' what wur goin' forrard, an' sneak out o' the way. I 
wan't fur astray 'beout Mister Migooel Dee-ez bearin' my mark. 
We foun' the tar o' a bullet through the fleshy part o' his dexter 
wing ; an' thet explained why he wur so quick at lettin' go his 
laryette." 

**It was he, then!" mechanically remarked Louise, as she 
stood reflecting. 

** Very strange ! " she continued, still muttering the words to 
herself. " He it was I saw in the chapparal glade ! Yes, it must 
have been! And the woman — this Mexican — IsidoraP Ah! 
There is some deep mystery in all this — some dark design! 
Who can unravel it ? " 

*' Tell me, dear Zeb," she asked, stepping closer to the old 
hunter, and speaking with a certain degree of hesitancy. " That 
woman — the Mexican lady I mean — who — who was out there. 
Do you know if she has often visited him ? " 

"Him! Which him. Miss Lewaze?" 

"Mr. Gerald, I mean." 

" She mout, an' she moutn't — 'ithout my knowin' eyther one 
or the tother. I ain't often thur myself. The place air out o' 
my usooal huntin' OTOund, an' I only go now an' then for the 
sake o' a change. The crik's ftist rate for both deer an' gobbler. 
If ye ask my opeenyun, I'd say that thet ere gurl heven t never 
been thur aifore. Leestwise, I hain't heem o' it ; an* eft hed 
been so, I reckun Irish Pheelum ud a hed somethin' to say 
abeout it. Besides, I hev other reezuns for thinkin' so. I've 
only heem o' one o' the shemaJe sex bein' on a visit to thei 
shanty." 

" Who ? " quickly interrogated the Creole, the instant after 
regretting that she had asked the question — the colour coming 
to her cheeks, as she noticed the signiflcant glance with which 
Zeb had accompanied his concluding remark. 

" No matter," she continued, without waiting for the answer. 

" So, Zeb," she went on, giving a quick turn to the conver- 
sation, "you think that these men have had to do with that 
which is causing sorrow to all of us, — these Mexicans ? " 



850 TBE mcAm.iw HOBSIMAV. 

'<To tell je tiie traih. Miss Lewase, I don't know acklj wluit 
to think. It air the most mnsteerionsest consam ms irer kim to 
pass on these hjnr pnmjras. Sometimes I hey the idea that 
the Mexikiiis most a did it ; while at others, Fm in die opposite 
way o' thinkin', an* thet some'dy else hev hod a han' in the black 
bumess. I won't say who." 

" Not him, Zeb ; not kim ! " 

" Kot the mowstanger. No, neer a bit o' thet. Spite o* all 
that's sayed agin him, I hain't the leest surspishnn o* his 
innersense." 

"Oh! how is he to prove it? It is said, that the testi- 
mony is all against him! No one to speak a word in bis 
behalf! " 

" Wal, it ain't so sartint as to thet. Keepin' my eye npon the 
others, an' his prison ; I hain't hed mnch chance o' gettin' abeont. 
Thnr's a opportunity now ; an' I mean to make use o' it. The 
pnrayra 's a big book, Miss Peintdexter — a wonderfdl big book — 
for them as knows how to read the print o't. If not mac^ o' a 
scholar otherways, Zeb'lon Stump hev lamt to do thet. Thnr 
may bo some testymoney that mout help him, scattered over 
the musquit grass — jest as I've heem a Methody preecher say, 
thnr * war sarmints in stones, an' books in runnin' brutes.' EFt 
air so, thnr oughter be somethin' o' the kind scared up on the 
Alamo crik." 

" You think you might discover some traces ? " 

" Wal ; I'm goin' out to hev a look 'roun' me — speecially at 
the place whur I foun' the young fellur in the claws o' the spotted 
painter. I oughter gone afore now, but for the reezun I've tolt 
ye. Thank the Awlmighty ! thur's been no wet — neer y drop ; 
an* whatsomiver sign's been made for a week past, kin be under- 
stood as well, as if it war did yisterday — that is by them as knows 
how to read it. I must start straight away, Miss Lewaze. I jest 
mnned down to tell ye what hed been done at the Fort. Thnr's 
no time to bo throwed away. They let me in this momin' to 
see the young fellur ; an* I'm sartin his head air gettin' clurrer. 
Soon as it air all right, the Re'glators say, they'll insist on the 
trial takin' place. It may be in less'n three days ; an' I must 
git back afore it begins." 

"Go, Zeb, and God speed you on your generous errand! 
Come back with proofs of his innocence, and ever after I shall 
feel indebted to you for — for — more than life ! " 



CHAPTER LXXI. 

THE SORREL HORSE. 

Inspired by this passionate appeal, the hunter hastened towards 
the stable, where he had stalled his unique specimen of horse- 
flesh. 



THE SOSBEL HOBSE. 851 

He found the '^ critter" sonoronslj shelling some oom-cobs, 
which Pluto had placed liberally before her. 

Pluto himself was standing by her side. 

Contrary to his usual habit, the sable groom was silent: 
though with an air anything but tranquil. He looked rather 
iriste than excited. 

It might be easily explained. The loss of his young master — 
by Pluto much beloved — the sorrow of his young mistress, equally 
estimated — perhaps some scornful speeches which he had lately 
been treated to from the lips of Florinde — and still more likely a 
kick he had received from the boot-toe of Captain Cassius — 
for several days assuming solo mastery over the mansion — 
amply accounted for the unquiet expression observable on his 
countenance. 

Zeb was too much occupied with his own thoughts to notice 
the sorrowful mien of the domestic. He was even in too great a 
hurry to let the old mare finish her meal of maize, which she 
stood greatly in need of. 

Grasping her by the snout, he stuck the rusty snafiSe between 
her teeth ; pulled her long ears through the cracked leathern 
headstraps ; and, turning her in the stiSl, was about to lead her 
out. 

It was a reluctant movement on the part of the mare — ^to be 
dragged away from such provender as she rarely chanced to get 
between her jaws. 

She did not turn without a struggle ; and Zeb was obliged 
to pull vigorously on the bridle-rein before he could detach her 
muzzle from the manger. 

"Ho! ho! Mass' Tump!" interposed Pluto. "Why you be 
go 'way in dat big hurry ? De poor olo ma' she no half got u'm 
feed. Why you no let her fill her belly wif de com ? Ha ! ha ! 
It do her power ob good." 

" Han't got time, nigger. Coin' off on a bit o' a jumey. Got 
abeout a hunderd mile to make in less 'an a kupple o^ hours." 

" Ho ! ho ! Dat ere de fassest kind o' trabbelin'. You 'm jokin', 
Mass' Tump ? " 

" No, I ain't." 

" Gorramity ! Wa — dey do make won'foll journey on dese 
hyur prairas. I reck'n dat ere hoss must a trabbled two hun- 
ner mile de odder night." 

" What hoss ? " 

" De ole sorrel dere — in dat furrest 'tand from de door — ^Massa 
Cahoon hoss." 

" What makes ye think he travelled two hunder mile ? " 

" Elase ho kum home all kibbered ober wif de froff. Beside, 
he wa so done up he scace able walk, when dis chile lead um 
down to de ribba fo' gib um drink. Hee 'tagger like new-drop 
calf. Ho ! ho ! he wa broke down — he wa I " 

" 0' what night air ye palaverin', Piute ? " 



352 THE miiPf.FSS H0B3E3IA5. 

"" Wha niglit ? Le* ss see! Whj, ob coas de nigbt Ifaesa 
'Henry wa missed from de pUntadnm, Dmt sime mglit in de 
momm', Ixmt an hour alter de son git. op into de hebbinga. I 
no see de ole sorrel ^ore den, kase I no oat ob my skeeta-bar 
till att€T daylight. Den I knm *cro6s to de 'table hja, an' den 
I see dat qnadnimpid all Idbbered ober wif sweet an' finoff — 
lookin* like he'd swimmed through de big ribba, an' pandn' 's 
if he jes finish a fo' mile race on de Melairie coarse at New 
Qriean." 

"Who had him out thet night? ^ 

" Doan know, Mass' Tump. Only dat nobodj "lowed to ride 
de sorrel 'cept Massa Gaboon hisself. Ho I ho ! Xe'er a body 
lowed lay leg ober dat critter." 

" Why, wan't it himself that tuk the anymal out ? " 

'' Doan know, Massa Tump ; doan know de why nor de whafor. 
Dis chile neider see de Cap'n take um out nor fotch um in." 

" If yur statement air true Tjeout his bein' in sech a sweat, 
someb'dy must a hed him out, an' been ridin' o' him." 

" Ha ! ha ! Someb'dy muss, dat am certing." 

** Looke hyur, Piute ! Ye ain't a bad sort o' a darkie, though 
your skin air o' a sut colour. I reck'n you're tellin' the truth ; an' 
ye don't know who rud out the sorrel that night. But who do 
ye think it war? I'm only axin' because, as ye know, Mr. 
Feintdexter air a friend o' mine, an' I don't want his property to 
be abused — no more what belongs to Capen Calhoun. Some 
o' the field niggers, I reck'n, hev stole the anymal out o' the 
stable, an' hev been ridin' it all roun' the country. That's it, 
aintit?" 

" Well, no, Mass' Tump. Dis chile doan believe dat am it. 
De fiel' hands not 'lowed inside hyur. Dey dam't kum in to de 
'table no how. 'Twan't any nigger upon dis plantashun as tooked 
out de sorrel dat night." 

"Dum it, then, who ked a tuk him out? Maybe the 
overseer ? War it him d'ye think ? " 

" 'Twan't him needer." 

" Who then ked it be ; unless it war the owner o' the boss 
hisself ? If so, thur's an end o' it. He hed the right to ride 
his critter wharever he pleased, an' gallop it to h — 1 ef thet war 
agreeable to him. It ain't no bizness o' myen." 

** Ho ! ho I Nor myen, needer, Mass* Tump. Wish I'd thought 
dat way dis momin'." 

" Why do ye weesh that ? What happened this momin' to 
change vur tune ? " 

" Ho ! what happen dis momin' ? Dar happen to dis nigga a 
great miafortin'. Ho ! — ho I berry great misfortin'." 

"What war it?" 

" Golly, Massa Tump, I'se got kicked — dis berry momin', jess 
'bout an hour arter twelve o'clock in de day." 

" Kicked ! " 



THE SOBREL H0B6B. 858 

" Dat I did shoo— all romid de 'table." 

" Oh ! bv the bosses ! Which o' the brutes kicked ye ? " 

" Ho ! — ho ! you mistaken ! Not any ob de bosses, but de 
massa ob dem all — 'cept little Spotty da, de which he doan't 
own. I wa kicked by Mass' Gaboon." 

" The h — 1 ye wur ! For what reezun ? Ye must hev been 
misbehavin* yurself, nigger P " 

'* Dis nigga wan't mis-b'avin' 't all ; not as he knows on. I 
only ask de cap'n what put de ole sorrel in such a dreM 
condishin dat ere night, an' what make 'im so tired down. He 
say it not my bizness ; an' den he kick me ; an' den he larrup 
me wif de cow-hide ; an' den he threaten ; an' den he tell me, if 
I ebber 'peak bout dat same ting odder time, he gib me hunder 
lashes ob do wagon whip. He swa ; oh ! how he swa I 
Dis chile nebba see Mass Gaboon so mad — nebba, in all 'im 
life!" 

" But whar's he now ? I don't see him nowhar' beout the 
premises ; an' I rcck'n he ain't rud out, seein' as the sorrel's 
h^Tir?" 

" Golly, yes, Mass Tump ; he jess am rode out at dis time. He 
ob late go berry much away from de house an' tay long time." 

"AhossbackP" 

" Jess so. He go on de steel grey. Ha ! — ^ha ! he doan' ride 
de sorrel much now. He hain't mount *im once since de 
night de ole boss wa out — dat night we been 'peakin' 'bout. 
Maybe he tink he hab enuf hard ridin' den, an' need long 
'pell ob ress." 

" Look'ee hyur, Piute," said Zeb, after standing silent for a 
second or two, apparently engaged in some abstruse calculation. 
" Arter all, I reck'n I'd better let the ole maar hev another veer 
or two o' tiie com. She's got a long spell o' travellin' afore her ; 
an* she mout break down on the lumey. The more haste air 
sometimes the wusser speed ; an' thurfor, I kalkerlate, I'd better 
gie the critter her time. While she's munchin' a mouthfol, I 
ked do the same myself. 'Spose, then, you skoot acrosst to the 
kitchen, an' see ef thur ain't some chawin' stuff thur — ^a bit o' 
cold meat an' a pone o' com bread '11 do. Yur young mistress 
wanted me to hev somethin' to eet ; but I war skeert abeout 
delayin', an' refused. Now, while I'm waitin' on the maar, I 
reck'n I ked pick a bone,— -jest to pass the time." 

" Sartin' ye cud, Mass l^unp. I go fetch 'im in de hundreth 
part ob an instant." 

So saying the black-skinned Jehu started off across ^e patio, 
leaving Zeb Stump sole " master of the stole." 

The air of indifference with which he had concluded his diar 
logue with Pluto disappeared, the moment the latter was outside 
the door. 

It had been altogether assumed : as was proved by the earnest 
attitude that instantly replaced it. 



8£4 THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN. 

Striding across the paved caosewaj, that separated the two 
rows of s^dls, he entered that occnpicKl bj the sorrel. 

The animal shied off, and stood trembling against the wall — 
perhaps awed by the look of resolution with which the hunter 
had approached it. 

" Stan' still, ye brute ! " chided Zeb. " I don't mean no harm. 
to you, tho' by yur looks I reck'n ye're as vicious as ynr 
master. Stan* still, I say, an' let's hev a look at yur fiit- 
gear!" 

So saying, he stooped forward, and made an attempt to lay 
hold of one of the fore-legs. 

It was unsuccessful. The horse suddenly drew up his hoof; 
and commenced hammering the flags with it, snorting — ^as if 
in fear that some trick was about to be played upon him. 

" Dum yur ugly karkidge ! " cried Zeb, angrily venting the 
words. " Why don't ye stan' still ? Who's goin' to hurt ye ? 
Come, ole critter ! " he continued, coaxingly, *' I only want to 
see how yeVe been shod." 

Again he attempted to lift the hoof, but was prevented 
by the restive behaviour of the horse. 

"Wal, this air a difeequilty I didn't expeck," muttered he, 
glancing round to see how it might bo overcome. " What's to 
be did ? It'll never do to hev the nigger help me — nor yet see 
what I'm abeout — the which he will ef I don't get quick through 
wi' it. Dog-gone the boss ! How am I to git his feet up ? " 

For a short while he stood 'considering, his countenance 
showing a peevish impatience. 

" Cuss the critter ! " ho again exclaimed. " I feel like knockin' 
him over whar lie stan's. Ha ! now I hev it, if the nigger will 
only gie time. I hope the wench will keep him waitin'. Dum 
ye! I'll make ye stan' still, or choke ye dead ef ye don't. 
Wi' this roun' yur jugewlar, I reck'n ye won't be so 
skittish." 

While speaking he had lifted the trail-rope from his own 
saddle ; and, throwing its noose over the head of the sorrel, he 
shook it down till it encircled the animal's neck. 

Then hauling upon the other end, he drew it taut as a bow- 
string. 

The horse for a time kept starting about the stall, and snorting 
with rage. 

But his snorts were soon changed into a hissing sound, that 
with difficulty escaped through his nostrils ; and his wrath 
resolved itself into terror. The rope tightly compressing his 
throat was the cause of the change. 

Zeb now approached him without fear; and, after making 
the slip fast, commenced lifting his feet one after the 
other — scrutinizing each, in great haste, but at the same 
time with sufficient care. He appeared to take note of the 
shape, the shoeing, the number and relative position of the 



THE SOBREL HOBSE. 355 

nails — in short, everirthing tliat might suggest an idiosyncrasy, 
or assist in a fature identijQeation. 

On coming to the off hind foot — which he did last of the four 
— an exclamation escaped him that proclaimed some satisfaotory 
sui-prisc. It was caused by the sight of a broken shoe — ^nearly a 
quarter of which was missing from the hoof, the fracture havmg 
occurred at the second nail from the cauker. 

" Ef I'd know'd o' ^ow," he muttei*ed in apostrophe to the 
imperfect shoe, " I mout a' saved myself the trouble o' examinin' 
the tothers. Thur ain't much chance o' mistakin' the print 
you'd be likely to leave ahint ye. To make shur, I'U jest take 
yc along wi me." 

In conformity with this resolve, he drew out his huge hunt- 
ing knife — the blade of which, near the hilt, was a quarter of an 
inch thick — and, inserting it under the piece of iron, he wrenched 
it from the hoof 

Taking care to have the nails along, he transferred it to the 
capacious pocket of his coat. 

Then nimbly gliding back to the trail-rope, he undid the 
knot ; and restored the interrupted respiration of the sorrel. 

Pluto came in the moment after, bringing a plentiful supply of 
refreshments — including a tumbler of the Monongahela ; and to 
these Zeb instantly applied himself, without saying a word about 
the interlude that had occurred during the darkey's absence. 

The latter, however, did not fail to perceive that the sorrel 
was out of sorts : for the animal, on finding itself released, stood 
shivering in the stall, gazing around in a sort of woe-begone 
vronder after the rough treatment to which he had been sub- 
mitted. 

" Gorramity ! " exclaimed the black, " what am de matter wif 
de ole hoss ? Ho1 ho ! he look like he wa afeerd ob you. Mass 
Tump ! " 

" Oh, ye — es ! " drawled Zeb, with seeming carelessness. " I 
reck'n he air a bit afeerd. Ho war makin' to get at my ole 
maar, so I gied hiTn a larrup or two wi' the eend o' my trail rope. 
Thet's what has rousted him." 

Pluto was perfectly satisfied with the explanation, and the 
subject was permitted to drop. 

" Look hyur, Piute ! " said Zeb, starting another. " Who does 
the shocin' o' yur cattle ? Thar's some o' the hands air a smith, 
Ireckn?" 

** Ho ! ho ! Dat dere am. Yella Jake he do de shoein'. Fo 
what you ask. Mass Tump ? " 

" Wal ; I war thinkin' o' havin' a kupple o' shoes put on the 
hind feet o' the maar. I reck'n Jake ud do it for me." 

" Ho ! ho ! he do it wif a thousan' welkim — dat he will, I'se 
shoo." 

" Questyun is, kin I spare the time to wait. How long do it 
take him to put on a kupple ? " 



Z^ THE HSIDLESS HOBSEXAX. 

" Lor, Mass Tump, beny short wlifle. Jake fust-rate ban* at 
de bizness. Ebberybody say so." 

" He moatn't hare the mateerils riddy ? It depends on 
whether he's been shoein* lately. How long's it since he shod 
any o' y onm ? " 

" More'n a week I blieb, Mass' Zeb. Ho — ^ho ! De last war 
Missa Looey boss — de beantifnl 'potty dar. Bat dat won't make 
no differens. I know he hab de fijons all ready. I knows it, 
kase he go for shoe de sorrel. De ole boss hab one ob de hind 
shoe broke. He hab it so de lass ten day ; an' Mass Cahoon, he 
gib orders for it be remove. Ho — ^ho ! dis berry momin' I hear 
mn teU Jake." 

'* Arter all," rejoined Zeb, as if suddenly changing his mind, 
" I montn't hev the time to spare. I reck'n I'll let the ole 
critter do 'ithout till I kum back. The tramp I'm goin' on — ^most 
part o' it — lies over grass pnrayra ; an' won't hurt her." 

"Xo, I hevn't time," he added, after stepping outside and 
glancing up towards the sky. " I must be off firom hyur in the 
shakin' o' a goat's tail. Now, ole gal ! you've got to stop yur 
munchin' an take this bit o' iron atwixt yur teeth. Open yur 
com trap for it. That's the putty pet ! " 

And so continuing to talk — now to Pluto, now to the mare — 
he once more adjusted the headstall ; led the animal out ; and, 
clambering into the saddle, rode thoughtfully away. 



CHAPTER LXXn. 

ZEB STUMP ON THE TRAIL. 

After getting clear of the enclosures of Casa del Corvo, the 
hunter headed his animal up stream — in the direction of the 
Fort and town. 

It was the former he intended to reach — ^which he did in a 
ride of less than a quarter of an hour. 

Commonly it to